Professional Development

December 14, 2019

What Teachers Need to Know About Subitizing {+ a Freebie}

Subitizing is a big word for such a simple concept. Funny how that happens! Much like reading, students need a solid foundation in number fluency. Subitizing activities are a great way to help students do just that! As a result of not learning how to subitize, students might have difficulty with spatial reasoning, understanding addition and subtraction, and number sense. 

For that reason, it’s important to make some room throughout the week for students to practice subitizing. It can be short and simple, but the result of it will be powerful. Let’s dig into subitizing, why it’s important, and how you can practice in the classroom.

What is subitizing?

Subitizing simply means the ability to recognize a group of objects instantly (without counting each object). Think of rolling a die. You know how many dots there are without sitting and counting each one. When you see a dot in each corner and one in the middle, you automatically know it’s five. That is subitizing. Other common things we subitize are dominoes, tally marks, and ten frames. 

Why is subitizing important? 

Learning how to instantly recognize numbers provides a solid foundation for number fluency. According to NCTM, subitizing ultimately leads to counting on, addition, subtraction, and number sense.  First students learn perceptual subitizing – quickly recognizing the small groups of objects. Then, students move towards conceptual subitizing – quickly finding patterns and use them to find totals. 

For our primary students, subitizing practice helps them recognize numbers, tally marks, objects in ten frames, and numbers on dice. This helps them learn about composing and decomposing sets, which then leads to addition and subtraction. 

Simple Subitizing Activities

Animal Run Subitizing FREEBIE

This FREE downloadable game is a great way to make subitizing fun. It’s played similarly to War. It includes numbers one through ten with a festive reindeer theme. The cards have numbers, traditional dot dice formation, and random dot patterns. Just download, print,and laminate, and you’ll be totally set. Grab your FREEBIE below!

Counter Dump

First, have students put ten red and yellow counters in a cup. Next, shake them up and dump them out. See how quickly they can count the reds and the yellows. Finally, have them write down the number in numerical form, tally marks, or in a ten frame – whichever way you want them to practice. 

Videos and Songs

There so many subitizing videos and songs to check out. These are great to play during calendar time, as a math warm-up, or when you have a few extra minutes you want to fill with meaningful practice. 

Remember that practicing subitizing can be done with your students throughout the day in short chunks of time, during morning work, in math stations, or at the end of the day. Make it fun with engaging games and activities. By making a little time to teach this concept, you’ll set your students up for success in math. 

Subitizing Free Resource

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If you’re looking for some more fun, festive, and educational reindeer activities to round out a reindeer unit, check out the activities I have in my store. 

Shop Other Math Resources

These math resources are newly updated and packed with activities to help your students master their standards. Each of these resources has a teaching plan, teaching posters, interactive notebook components, independent practice, math station activities, math warm-ups, an assessment, and more!

Happy Teaching,


FREE Subitizing Cards

Make math FUN with this subitizing game. It includes numbers one through ten, and students play it similarly to War. Just download, print, laminate, and you’ll be totally set. Grab it today and boost your students’ math skills!

Hi, I'm Amanda

I’m a K-1 teacher who is passionate about making lessons your students love and that are easy to implement for teachers.  Helping teachers like you navigate their way through their literacy block brings me great joy. I am a lifelong learner who loves staying on top of current literacy learning and practices. Here, you’ll find the tools you need to move your K-2 students forward!


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