#3 Visual Subitizing

Subitizing is a fancy maths term that refers to the ability to see a certain number of similar objects (usually <20) and know how many there are without counting. Think of the way dots are arranged on a dice, so that you know what six is without having to count. Clever, huh?

But the ability to subitize is not something that comes naturally to us. Usually, it needs to be explicitly taught, usually in lower elementary school. Flockmen can be arranged visually to create numbers that help children learn to subitize.

Visual subitizing - maths with Flockmen

What you’ll need:

  • 16+ Flockmen
  • A clean, flat surface such as a table top
  • Paper and a pencil
  • Or a chalkboard and chalk

Challenge Instructions:

  • Start by placing 3 Flockmen on the table, about a hand-width apart. Each Flockmen is 1, so write 1 + 1 + 1 = ____ on your paper. Do the sum.
  • Arrange the Flockmen in groups of two, a hand-width apart. Because each stack looks the same, you know there are two in each. Now your sum will look like this 2 + 2 + 2  = ____
  • Build 3 mini pyramids with 3 Flockmen in each, placed a hand-width apart. Now your sum will be 3 + 3 + 3 = ____. Write it down and find the answer.
  • How else can you write this sum? 3 x 3, because there are 3 groups of 3.
  • Build Flockmen into groups of 4, 5 and 6 (using all the Flockmen you have!)


Extra mini challenges to extend yourself:

  • Use subtraction and remove Flockmen as you subitize to make a new equation. Eg. 9 - 3 = ____
  • Start with a defined amount of Flockmen, ie. 10, and see how many groups you can split 10 into to create a sum. Eg. 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 = ____ 5 + 5 = ____
  • Once you’ve mastered visual subitizing, use the Flockmen in a more abstract way to multiply.


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