Do Preschoolers Know How to Subitize?

Parents, educators, and even the government have ideas about what defines “Kindergarten readiness.” Here at Wayne County Regional Education Service Agency (Wayne RESA), we recognize a whole child approach to “Kindergarten readiness” that considers the brain and body connections necessary in the early years of life. Focusing on just one area (like reading because it’s my favorite) and not others (like math, because I struggled in math) is easy both in the classroom and at home.

As a Mom, I struggle to consider math in my day to day interactions, but always make time for reading and writing in a variety of playful ways. In an attempt to know better and do better, I did a little math research of my own to find the latest information from HighScope’s team of researchers as well as a team at Michigan Department of Education who recently published a set of Essential Practices in Early Mathematics. I was so excited to find that a lot of essentials are already part of my day, like counting how many more days until a fun event or how many minutes it should take to brush teeth.

One new vocabulary term I found several times throughout my investigation was “subitizing.” At first, I had no idea what this meant and then I realized it was a simple as playing a game of “Trouble” with my three year old! “Subitizing” is formed from the Latin word “subitus” meaning sudden or rapid. Envision asking a two-year-old how old they are as they shyly hold up two fingers. That is subitizing! Here are some fast facts you’ll need to know about subitizing:
• Subitizing is the ability to “see” a small amount and know “how many” there are instantly without counting
• It is difficult to subitize more than five objects
• Fundamental to understanding “cardinality”

For some ideas to support “subitizing” try any or all of these active learning games:
• Match that Number – Call out a number and ask children to match with fingers while lining up or waiting in line at the store
• Name that Number Dance and Freeze– While dancing to your family favorite, stop the music and show dot cards, fingers or dice quickly then hide them and ask the child to name the quantity without counting. Let them take the lead and hold the cards for you to name. It’s harder than you think!

“Subitizing” is just one early math skill that we may already be doing with the children in our lives and with just this little bit of info can do all the more!

Keep an eye out for more information about other math concepts and ideas for bringing them to every child, every day! Share your ideas and comments with us on Facebook!

Guest Blogger: Carissa Orr, Wayne RESA Early Childhood Consultant for the Great Start Readiness Program

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