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Maths Week Scotland - Subitising

by Allan Wilson

on Mon Sep 11, 2017

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University of Edinburgh
22nd March, 2018

How Technology can support Dyscalculic learners

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To mark Maths Week Scotland, we will be publishing a short blog every day looking at apps that can help improve the numeracy skills of pupils with dyscalculia, or other difficulties with mathematics. Today we are looking at 'subitising' and an app that can help learners work on this skill.

What is Subitising?

Plate with three biscuits.Subitising is the process of being able to see a small number of objects in a set and instantly 'know' how many are there, without having to count them. Most people, seeing three biscuits on a plate, would instantly know that there were three biscuits, without having to count them. Research by Brian Butterworth and others suggests that most people can instantly match the correct number to up to four objects in a groups, but they may need to start  mentally counting and grouping objects for larger numbers. People with dyscalculia can struggle with any number of objects.

Pattern Sets App

Pattern Sets can be used with an iPad to provide practice with subitising skills. It can be purchased as an individual app, or as part of the Number Sense CFS bundle from Classroom Focused Software.

The app presents a number of counters on screen for a specific time (which can be altered), allowing you to say how many you can see. Tap on the 'jigsaw piece' icon to the top, right of the screen to test your skill.

Tapping on the Settings button (the cog wheel near the top, left) lets you vary such features as the number of objects that might be presented, the time available to estimate the number. If you are unsure of the abilities of a pupil. it is best to start with a small number and a reasonable time. If necessary, you can make the task harder as the pupil progresses.

The Low Tech Option

Of course, you don't need to use an iPad and app to practise subitising. You can easily sit with a pupil, place a number of counters on a desk, covering them with a large sheet of paper, then remove the sheet for a couple of seconds and ask them to tell you how many they saw. You can then get the pupil to do a manual count, possibly grouping the counters, to make sure they gave the right answer.

Further Information

Shirley and I will be running a course at CALL on How Technology Can Support Dyscalculic Learners on Thursday 22nd March, 2018. All welcome!

Course: How Technology Can Support Dyscalculic Learners.

Tags: maths, dyscalculia, app

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