Posted by Casey

Mathematics has always been one of my favourite subjects to teach in the early years classroom. There are so many opportunities to learn through hands-on activities! According to the Australian Curriculum, Foundation students should be able to subitise small collections of numbers and connect numeral names and quantities. Today I’d like to share some simple hands-on activities to help your children learn how to subitise.

What is subitising?

Subitising is the ability to quickly recognise the amount of objects in a small group without having to count to find out. For example, when you a roll a dice you instantly know how many dots there are! The ability to subitise helps build a solid foundation for number knowledge. It also forms the basis for early grouping skills and an understanding of  part-part-whole number relationships.

DIY Subitising Flash Cards

Sometimes teaching resources can cost a small fortune, so I’m all about going down the DIY path as often as possible! I put together these sweet little subitising cards during my time as a student at University. Using a 1 inch circle hole-punch, I cut out a bunch of red circles. You could also use sticker dots from the Newsagents or dollar store. I started with some simple representations, the same as you would see on a dice.

Make your own DIY Subitising cards using 1 inch circle cutters or circle stickers | Teach young children how to subitise using flashcards | hands-on activities for subitising | Australian Curriculum - Numeracy and Number | Prep, Foundation and Kindergarten students |

The standard representations are recognisable very quickly, so I also put together some non-standard representations. These cards allowed my Little Learners to really think about what they could see and use beginning part-part-whole relationships to quickly work out the numeral shown. For example, in the representations of four, students might see two and two or three and one.

I used these subitising cards most mornings as a warm-up which my Prep students absolutely loved! You could also have your Little Learners help you to make their own set of subitising cards using either circle dots or even clip art images like the fish example below.

Make your own DIY Subitising cards using 1 inch circle cutters or circle stickers | Teach young children how to subitise using flashcards | hands-on activities for subitising | Australian Curriculum - Numeracy and Number | Prep, Foundation and Kindergarten students |

FREE Subitising Jar Game

This is a game I used to play with my Prep students all the time. They all absolutely loved it! All you need to do is print a set of the lolly jars and as many lolly sheets as you see necessary. The child rolls the dice and quickly subitises and adds that many lollies to their jar. This continues until they have used all of their lollies! This is a great way to develop the skill of subitising while using standard dice representations of numbers from 1 to 6.

FREE subitising candy dice game for learning how to subitise | Knowing how many there are in a collection without counting | Fun games for Kindergarten, Prep and Foundation students and children | Australian Curriculum - Numeracy, Number |

Number Bump Board Games

In order to help my students quickly recognise the numeral representations on a dice, I made these number bump board games! Children work in pairs and have one board to share, a dice and a set of 10 coloured counters each (one may have red and the other may have blue).

The first child rolls the dice and places their counter on the matching number. You should encourage children to subitise to find the number shown on the dice rather than counting. If their partner’s counter is in the way, they can ‘bump’ it off and put their own counter in its place. If their own counter is in the way, they can put another counter on top which locks it so that their partner can’t bump it off. The child who uses all of their counters first is the winner!

Subitising Treasure Hunt

As we know, subitising is all about recognising the total amount of objects in small collections without having to count. To help develop this skill, have your children go on a collection hunt around the classroom. For example, you might ask students to find collections of ‘two’ so they might notice there are two windows side by side or two stuffed toys sitting on a table.

You can ask your children to help you take photos of these collections which you can then put together onto number posters. This is a really fun exercise that will get your Little Learners thinking about the way numbers can be represented while also subitising real objects from their environment! You might even like to have your Little Learners create their own collections using objects which you can then photograph.

Do you have a favourite activity for teaching subitising? Share it in the comments to help inspire other early years teachers!

About the author

Casey is an early years teacher who passionate about supporting parents and educators that want to use play as way to connect with their little learners and create magical memories of childhood! You can follow Casey on Instagram right here.

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