Do you know what subitising is? In the world of early mathematics education, subitising has become a pivotal skill, crucial for developing a strong number foundation in 3 to 6 year olds. But what is it? Subitising as a concept that might seem complex, but is actually a simple and fundamental concept in early numeracy. Below we aim to demystify subitising, highlighting its importance through expert insights and practical tips for parents and educators.
What is subitising?
Subitising, as defined by math education experts, is the ability to 'instantly see how many' or framed another way to know the number of objects in a small group without counting them individually, (no finger counting or other aids!)
Here’s an example. On a table there’s two groups of blocks, one with 2 yellow blocks and one with 3 red ones.
How many in total are there? Using conceptual subitising, you can recognise, without counting the individual blocks, the whole quantity as 5 by by perceptually subitising two smaller quantities.
Bernie Westacott, renowned math expert (and Teach Your Monster consultant), emphasises the significance of subitising in early education: "subitising is not just about recognizing numbers at a glance; it's about understanding and visualising number relationships,"
Why is subitising important?
It helps form a solid foundation for complex mathematical concepts. As Bernie notes, "Subitising lays the groundwork for more advanced mathematical thinking, including addition and subtraction." Essentially it's the stepping stone to understanding bigger numbers and mathematical operations.
Regular subitising activities can enhance a child’s numerical fluency, making them more comfortable and confident with numbers.
Subitising aids cognitive development, improving memory, attention, and logical thinking, essential for problem-solving.
Incorporating subitising into daily learning
Here are a few practical tips to incorporate subitising in your day to day activities.
Educational Apps. Games like Teach Your Monster Number Skills are an excellent way to integrate subitising into children's playtime through engaging, fun activities that reinforce number recognition and relationships.
Everyday Activities. Simple household items can become tools for subitising practice. Using items like buttons, fruits, or toys can make learning more tangible and relatable.
Storytelling and Visual Aids. Incorporating stories and props can make the abstract concept of numbers more concrete and understandable for young minds. Questions like ‘How many’ are very useful for this. Why not have a toy party, where toys come and go and your kid needs to subitise how many are there?
Expert Tips for Parents and Educators
Engage in Playful Learning. Integrating subitising into games and playful activities. As Bernie Westacott suggests, "Make learning a joyful and engaging experience."
Connect with Real-life Examples. Applying subitising to everyday situations to help children understand the relevance of math in their daily lives.
Foster Collaborative Learning. Group activities encourage children to learn from and with each other, enhancing their social and cognitive skills.
Subitising is such an important step to a deeper understanding and appreciation of numbers in the young mind and it doesn’t take much to start embedding subitising in children's daily activities and play. We hope these tips help!