Are you looking for some low-prep subitizing activities that make a big impact? You’re in the right place!

But first, did you know that there is a progression of smaller skills needed to have success with subitizing? If you aren’t familiar with subitizing, you should certainly check out my post on what subitizing is and why it’s important. It will help break down perceptual vs. conceptual subitizing and give you more background information to better understand today’s topic.

To briefly recap, there are two types of subitizing: **perceptual subitizing** and **conceptual subitizing**. Perceptual subitizing is the ability to just know how many objects without needing to count. Most people can subitize this way with five or fewer objects. Conceptual subitizing builds off of perceptual subitizing. It involves seeing a larger amount in parts and then adding them together.

So how do we help students along in this progression of smaller skills so they can be subitizing pros? I’ll share some easy, low-prep subitizing activities and games that you can do with your students to incorporate subitizing into your math warm-ups and lessons.

I’ve broken down the subitizing activities into a meaningful progression that supports perceptual subitizing and conceptual subitizing. You may be wondering what order to do these subitizing activities in. Below I’m including a general progression but it’s ok to expose children to conceptual subitizing before they’ve demonstrated complete mastery with perceptual subitizing to 5. This is just the progression that students will likely master subitizing skills.

## Perceptual Subitizing Activities

**Quick Flash**

This is one of the easiest subitizing activities to prep and incorporate! For this activity, all you need are your hands, pattern cards, or slides with the patterns (link?) you are working on. You don’t even have to use pattern cards. You can use index cards with dot stickers or index cards with holes punched in them. Show a number of fingers or the image you want students to subitize for a few seconds and then hide it. That’s it!

To make sure all of your students are engaged, you’ll want some kind of response from each student. Some of my favorite ways to get every student to participate are to have them use their fingers to show how many images they saw or to write how many they saw on a whiteboard. Using a whiteboard requires that students know the numerals and can use a marker to write them. Of course, that won’t be right for all age groups.

Quick flash subitizing activities can be used in combination with a number of stages of perceptual subitizing. You can use random patterns as well as dice patterns, domino patterns, and ten frames. This is an activity that truly spans the progression!

**Die Patterns**

Dice are an amazing tool in subitizing! Many students come to school already able to perceptually subitize because they play board games with their families. For additional perceptual practice, have students play games (literally any game!) with one die. They can play a store-bought board game, a math game you use in your classroom, or any other academic game that requires dice. Once students master perceptually subitizing up to 6 with those dice patterns, move them on to conceptual subitizing with two dice.

**Swat Game**

You may be familiar with using fly swatters to engage students in academic games. Well, they can be used with subitizing activities too! Put subitizing cards out on a table or up on a whiteboard. Give students fly swatters and then call out a number between 1 and 5. Students then have to quickly swat the image that matches the number you called out. You can play this game competitively or not – it’s super fun either way!

## Conceptual Subitizing Activities

**Quick Flash with Discussion **

The quick flash subitizing activities can also be done to practice conceptual subitizing. The dot patterns you use for these will be more like two dice or a whole domino. If you’re using your fingers (or images of fingers), you’ll want to show them in non-standard ways. For example, show 7 as 5 on one hand and 2 on the other using your ring finger and pinky.

Since many people can perceptually subitize 7 on fingers when it’s shown as 5 and then the pointer and thumb, using different fingers will force students to use conceptual subitizing instead.

The difference between quick flash for conceptual subitizing and perceptual subitizing is the discussion afterward. *Please don’t skip it!* When looking at the image above, two people will be able to use conceptual subitizing to determine the total amount of dots, but they may have seen them in very different ways. Therefore, have students share how they saw the dots. Ask them how their brains decomposed the images. The discussion is a very important part of these subitizing activities.

**Dice patterns, Dominoes, Games, Oh My!**

Dominoes and board games with dice really bring out kids’ conceptual subitizing skills and are such a fun way to practice.

Have students play dominoes – the right way or just have them play *with* dominoes. The only thing they have to do is say how many they see as quickly as possible. Because domino piece values go above 10, you may want to pull out the ones with smaller values to start.

Students will also love playing board games with dice. It can literally be any game that requires them to roll two dice. Prompt students to name how many they rolled without counting. Board games with dice and dominos are also a great option to recommend to families who are looking for ways to work with their children at home.

**Beyond Dot Patterns**

If you teach grades 2 and up, most of your students can likely subitize. Of course, you may have some students that need additional subitizing practice but the majority of your students are ready to move on to conceptual subitizing and its connection to place value and multiplication.

##### Place Value

To connect subitizing to place value_{, }use any of the subitizing activities above, but instead of dot patterns, use base ten blocks. Flash some units (ones) and ask students how many. This will be an easy connection to the subitizing they are used to. Then flash rods (tens) and ask them how many. If you flash 3 rods, some students may say 3 and some may say 30. That’s ok! Remember that with conceptual subitizing, the discussion is very important. Ask students to explain their thinking. Once students connect the value of the blocks with subitizing, keep practicing the blocks separately and then together in various combinations!

##### Multiplication

Once again, you can use the same subitizing activities to reinforce multiplication. Rather than showing dot patterns, show them groups of dots. For example, you may show them three circles with 5 dots inside of them in the domino pattern or groups of dice that show the same value. Students can use their conceptual subitizing skills to determine that there are 15 dots. When discussing, you can explicitly make the connection to multiplication and ask students to name the matching equation.

And there you go – my favorite easy, low-prep subitizing activities and games! Let me know how it goes when you try them out and feel free to share any of your favorites!

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