Quantity is a biologically-based pattern.  We label these inherent patterns as numbers.  All mammals and birds can instantly recognize, or subitize*, a small quantity of items.  The average human can subitize around seven items.  Look at the groups below.  In less than five seconds, and without grouping, adding, or counting which things do you instantly know the quantity?

Cars?                                                                               Penguins?


Apparently there are least two different methods to ascertain the quantity or number of things. The predominant method is to learn the numbers by counting, however, recent research has revealed a biologically-based mechanism, called subitization, that merely requires us to learn the names for different quantities as these quantities are inherently recognized.  The shortcoming to subitizing is that it only seems to work reliably for less than seven things.   But what if there was a third method that allowed us to instantly recognize numbers in the hundreds? Would that rock the very foundation of number sense?


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* The meaning of subitize (sOO'-bi-tīz") is used too rarely in math education.  Its inherent value about how mammals and birds can instantly recognize, or subitize, a small quantity of items has a tremendous impact on our perception of young learners.