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What is Subitizing and How to Improve It

Before we start

What is subitizing?

Before tackling how to take on Smartick’s activities on subitizing, we’ll start with an example to help us understand what it is.

It is Friday afternoon and you have gone to see a movie with two friends. You get ready in a hurry, are the first to arrive at the movie theater and decide to buy the tickets. You get in line and with a quick glance know that you are not going to have to wait long because there are only four people in front of you.

Did you have to count the number of people there were? If the answer is no, that is because you have a well-developed sense of subitizing, recognizing relatively small amounts at a glance is an instant action that does not require counting.

In fact, subitizing is defined as the ability to instantly recognize (suddenly) the number of elements in a set without using counting techniques.

How can I train my subitizing ability?

The foundation of subitizing is rooted in perceiving numbers in a reasonably manageable way. In Smartick we have sequenced it in such a way so that this ability develops to its maximum potential. Thus, the first subitizing activities consist of developing the ability to recognize the same cardinal — that is, the number of elements — of different sets.

Afterwards, we incorporate the rekenrek, and its clear analogy with fingers and hands, to encourage pattern assimilation which facilitates the later distinction between certain quantities.


Later, also using the rekenrek, numbers are explicitly introduced as cardinal sets.

Finally, since subitizing is an instantaneous mental process, we propose more complex activities to develop this skill by incorporating a time limit.


At Smartick we are aware that these lessons require a lot of attention and are often difficult to master, so I am going to give you a piece of advice: don’t try to count the items. If you do, you won’t be exercising your subitizing ability. What you need to try to do is respond with the number that you saw when you glanced at the image.

I hope that this post has helped you to correctly tackle the activities presented by Smartick to improve your subitizing ability. Why wait?! Login to Smartick and try our method for free.


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Fun is our brain’s favorite way of learning
Diane Ackerman
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