What is subitizing and how to teach it

Are you teaching your students how to subitize? If so, read this article to learn a subitizing strategy and grab the free printable below!

### What is subitizing?

Subitizing is knowing how many are in a small set without counting. In kindergarten, students are expected to subitize a small set within six.

When I was a kid, I used to play board games (Monopoly, Trouble, Mouse Trap, anyone?) all the time and learned how to subitize without it being explicitly taught to me. Why? Because most board games included dice! Dice is a great way to get students subitizing! When I rolled a dice and it landed on six, I would see a group of 3 and 3 more and know that’s six. I didn’t point and count all six dots.

Students that know how to subitize become better at math because they learn how to solve math problems by noticing patterns. Here’s an example: a student would start at one and count to figure out the number in a set. A strong math student would notice small sets in larger sets and would add to figure out the number in a set. See the difference?

Luckily, all students can be great math students! They just need the tools and instruction to do so! As primary teachers, it’s our responsibility to teach students these essential skills!

### Subitizing Worksheets

Here’s a subitizing worksheet you can use to get you started! I usually model how to subitize and then we’ll do a couple of problems together and then they complete the rest independently. I have used it as a math warm-up.

### Model, Model, Model!

I model how I don’t have to count each dot to figure out how many. I see a small set of dots and I count on from that number OR I see two small sets and know how many. An example is two groups of two. I’ll circle two groups of two and remark how I know that 2+2=4 so 2 groups of two is four and I didn’t have to count. Then, I’ll do another problem and ask students to help me solve this one. We also circle the sets so we can really see it. Then, I have students complete this worksheet independently if they are ready. Some students still will need instruction. If that’s the case, I’ll work with them in a small group.

How do you teach subitizing to your students? Let me know in the comments section below.

Click here to download your free printable.

Click here for more subitizing activities and counting to ten.

Happy Teaching!

Tee