Home » Just Starting Out » Quantity Identification and Adults

Last week when I posted about playing The Quarter Game with Jenna(2.5), Lia from One Mouthful posed an interesting question. What type of quantities are adults capable of visualizing? Unfortunately, I have no idea, even after trying to figure out the answer via Google! Instead, my son Bruce(6.5) and I have been conducting our own experiments on each other. I can visualize up to seven quarters within 3 seconds, and he can visualize 6. We still need to try this out on my husband.

Interestingly, when we used two or three different colors, we could both go a lot higher. This reminded me of some Right Start mathematics literature I read by Dr. Joan Cotter, which encourages teaching your child to recognize the quantity 5 as being two on each side with one in the middle. (I can’t remember the specific place where I read that, or I would include the link).

So for me as a parent who is trying to anneal my daughter’s math skills, once Jenna has the quantity 4 nailed, then I should start introducing 5 as four of one color, and one of another. As soon as Jenna can do that, then I’m going to start her out on the first few lessons of Right Start Level A. I tried this a couple of months ago, and she wasn’t ready back then. But I think she is going to be ready soon.

1. Peter Price says:

Jennifer,
I think you’ll find what you are writing about is “subitization” – being able to perceive the number of objects in a group without counting them one by one. It’s interesting that your research showed you and your son could subitize 7 or 6 objects; most research finds the number to be lower – around 4 or 5, unless they are in some ordered arrangement. Your representation of 5 beans is a good example – conceptually, if you know some basic addition facts, you can tell there are 5 because of the “2+1+2” arrangement.
Math educators consider this to be a pretty important basic skill, so I’d say you are doing a good job to help your daughter to develop this ability.

• jenbrdsly says:

Subitization! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Peter, that’s the missing word I needed to do a more effective Google search about this topic. You’ve also answered the initial question too. 🙂 Your website, Classroomprofessor.com, is very informative as well.

2. Lia says:

Love that this is turning into an entire discussion! While the lack of sleep as a mom is a brain drain, teaching Ben stuff is definitely making me smarter in the process.