I want five. I wish I was five. It is five. It has five. There are five. We say these sentences so often that we overlook the fact that they are incomplete. Are you gritting your teeth now and mumbling to yourself, “Five what, monkeys?” Because of the missing noun, many jokes emerge from such statements. The fact is this: numbers are adjectives, and they describe a quantity. When you are counting to five with your fingers, fingers is a noun that you add to the adjective five to provide context. This change of perspective can bring new life to your math discussions!
Fingers make useful counters as they are properly organised and conveniently located on our hands. What if we change the context to five marbles rolling in a spacious box, constantly re-organising themselves? Most toddlers will sit and stare at such an activity because it is interesting to watch the shape of five (an idea embodied by the 5 balls) change.
Whether it is five balls, five birds, five people, five random items, we instinctively know the quantity without actually counting them because we recognise the various shapes that a quantity of 5 can take if it is visually contained within a frame of our view. This is called subitizing, the ability to recognise the shape of small quantities without counting, and it is important to your child’s number sense.
There is a time to count, and there is a time to recognise. When you ask, “How many are there?” and your child replies, “five” correctly, do not require him to give you a reason. Do not say, “let’s count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.” If you insist on making him count, you diminish his confidence in his own ability to recognise five. Praise him instead and move on.
Click on the links below for some 60-second videos that may give you some idea on how subitizing works. You can show it to your toddler too. Mute the volume and use your voice instead, if possible.
Recognising the quantity of one.
Recognising the quantity of two.
Recognising the quantity of three.
Recognising the quantity of four.
Recognising the quantity of five.
Recognising the quantity of six.
Recognising the quantity of seven.
Reconising the quantity of eight.
Recogising the quantity of nine.
Recognising the quantity of ten.
Mixed Quantities – Set 1.
Mixed Quantities – Set 2
Mixed Quantities – Set 3.
If you were math-injured as a student because you didn’t know that numbers were adjectives, and you had trouble understanding math sentences that were made up of adjectives, I hope this blogpost brings you healing and speedy recovery! 💐