Counting & Subitising

BY ON Oct 28, 2012

We often recognise the number associated with a particular pattern straight away, even before we have had time to count the items.

What is subitising and why it is important


[h2 style1] What is Subitising (Subitizing)?  [/h2 style1]

Subitising refers to immediately knowing how many items lie within a visual scene for a small number of items.  It is to have a rapid and confident judgement to know at a glance and without counting to identify the number of items in a group.  For example, when a dice is thrown the observer at a glance, immediately and accurately knows how many dots lie on the face of the dice without counting.

These dice activities I have set up for Miss 4 is to practice and develop her subitising skills and to also involve Miss 2 to help her begin this learning of subitising and also counting.  We have used a number of props and fun drawings to make the learning fun and motivating!


[h2 style1]What you will need? [/h2 style1]


You will need dice, small round tokens or buttons, medium and small pompoms and subitising pictures with rounds circles to fill with the pompoms and tokens.

I made our subitising sheets using the basic outline of some cute pictures that I photocopied and enlarged.  I then traced around the outlines onto coloured paper and added the circles free hand.  The larger circles you see on the orange fish have been traced onto the fish using bottle tops.


Due to popularity I have created some printable templates for you to use for this activity.  They are different to the pictures shown here in this post but they are still super cute and will work perfectly for this activity.  You will find a Bee, Butterfly, Cupcake, Apple Tree and a Fish.


[h2 style1]You can download and print them here –> [/h2 style1]

Printable Subitising and Counting Template – Butterfly

Printable Subitising and Counting Template – Bee

Printable Subitising and Counting Template – Fish

Printable Subitising and Counting Template – Cupcake

Printable Subitising and Counting Template – Apple Tree


[h2 border style2]Let’s Play [/h2 border style2]


The aim of this activity to develop the skill of subitising by creating an environment (visual scene) to recognise the number associated with a particular pattern on the dice, with the clusters of circles on the paper and collections/groups of pompoms and tokens made to match that of the dice.

Here the first picture is a great example of demonstrating that 3 groups of items/numbers make 5.   2 and 2 and 1 makes 5.   The way that the circles are clustered together and the tokens are placed help create this visual pattern for kids to see and make connections with the number.

This activity also exposes kids (if they are ready) to the concept of addition.  First we rolled a 5 and then a 6, how many tokens do we have?


[h2 border style3]Let’s Learn [/h2 border style3]


With some of the drawings I deliberately placed the circles into a collection or cluster of circles creating a visual number pattern to assist with the development of this instant recall of ‘how many?’ without needing to count.


Miss 2 had so much fun with this also!  As she placed the each token onto the seahorse circles I counted out loud with her as she listened and sometimes also repeated.  This is not just a fabulous activity for the littlies to be introduced to counting and basic subitising but also the wonderful development of fine motor skills as each small token is placed carefully over the circles to colour the sea horse picture in.


[h2 style1]Why is Subitising Important? [/h2 style1]

  • Subitising contributes to early forms of grouping. Seeing parts of a whole or that numbers are made up of other numbers.
  • Understanding number relations: Interpreting number in terms of part-whole relationships makes it possible for children to think about a number as being made up of other numbers
  • Understanding number relation: the notion that numbers are within numbers is important for separating, grouping and combining numbers as well as for multiplication, division and measurement.


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28 responses to “Counting & Subitising”

  1. Kelly says:

    I’d never really thought about this, so it was interesting to read about it. And I love how you incorporated such lovely colourful items into this play!

  2. Penny says:

    I must admit that I focus a lot of Miss Possums learning around literacy and not so much math. We’ve done a little of it but I so need to do more before she starts school next year. I’ll be doing this for sure!

  3. Subitising is all about what you can visually see, so this activity makes a lot of sense in terms of helping children to develop that maths concept/skill.

    Now to find time to draw beautiful images like yours.

  4. This has to be one of the most fun subitising activities I’ve seen. So colourful and playful. We play a matching game with dominoes, dice and game counters. My son loves it but I bet he’d REALLY love this.

  5. kathy tremblay says:

    These are great activities. I would love a clean shot of the turtle and the seahorse. Those would fit into my lessons. Maybe then I could print them out and trace them myself! Any chance of that?

  6. Debs says:

    Thanks for sharing this Janice. Love that idea. Always looking for new subatising games as we do a lot of that in the early years. We’ll be having a go of this one for sure 🙂

  7. Renee @ adventuresathomewithmum says:

    This is such an interesting post Janice. Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t thought about children learning in this way before, it looks like such engaging fun.

  8. Kate Turner says:

    An excellent post Janice! Subitising is definitely a skill worth rehearsing and I love the games you have made. I will be making some for my Kinder class to add to the other subitising activities I have in place. Have you seen my post on Numicon? It is probably the next step as the numbers are organised in ten frame shapes but it is excellent when the children start instantly recognising the which piece reperesents which number!

  9. My Miss 2 has just started to subitise quite well… it often surprises me! I love this activity and will be giving it a go! Thanks!

    • Janice says:

      Kids are always full of surprises, haha! 🙂 I am glad you liked the activity Bek x

      • Jane says:

        Hi Janice,

        I printed off this awesome subitising idea a while ago, and have been meaning to contact you to ask if the game boards you created are available for purchase from TpT?

        Jane – Prep teacher

  10. Love this post Jackie….I learnt so much and enjoyed those wonderful pics of learning fun!

  11. I so meant to write Janice…….i shouldn’t read all the other comments and names first lol…so sorry Janice!!!

  12. Subitising is such a fundamental skill! This is a great way to teach it!

  13. Janice, love this fun learning activity and I’m positive my kids will too 🙂 I’ll be featuring this as part of my useful math games roundup. xo Pauline

  14. Marian says:

    Where can I download the resources on counting and subitising? That’s fantastic … love it.

  15. Lori says:

    What age is appropriate to begin this type of activity?

  16. Tuanhm says:

    I love your ideal, this is funny activity for my kid.

  17. I love these games. Where can I download such animal templates?

  18. […] Activity I got this idea from another blog (Learning 4 Kids) but had to create the game boards myself.  So, once I had drawn them I thought other teachers […]

  19. Subitising is so important! And I saw it emerging in my little one at such an early age naturally!! Thanks for showing another great way to play and learn!! 🙂

  20. Royena says:

    I LOVE this and I know my daughter will too. Thank you for taking the time to share this.

  21. pary says:

    where can I buy the pompom and token and dice?

  22. Fatema says:

    Excellent post. Will be trying this for sure.. Thanks so much for sharing

  23. […] Free subitising printables from Learning 4 Kids […]

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