Subitize, from the Latin subitus (meaning "sudden"),
is a word used to describe the ability to quickly know how many
items are visible without actually counting them. The ability to "see" a
quantity begins to develop even before the first grade and slowly
progresses. Subitizing and counting involve different brain pathways,
and it has been argued that subitizing cannot be taught but only
encouraged.
Subitize Me! is a movie designed to encourage students
to see a number of objects without having to count a number of
objects. The movie focuses on two children, TT and Bebo, who hunt
for a treasure in an ancient ruin. To reach the treasure, they
must count a huge floor scattered with more gold pieces than they
can count individually. Before being able to count this amount,
they go through a series of lessons in subitizing, demonstrating
the various methods of identifying subsets and recognizing relationships
between numbers.
In their first lesson, TT and Bebo learn to recognize dots on
dice in standard arrangements up to and including the number 6.
This perceptual subitizing is something even the very young can
do. The standard arrangement lesson establishes a visual foundation
for future subitizing lessons. It also acclimates students to the
idea of not counting. In their second and third lessons, they learn
to recognize nonstandard arrangements for the same numbers. In
their fourth lesson, they progress to conceptually subitizing five
frames and ten frames. Lesson five subitizes ten frames and groups
of ten frames. Lesson six subitizes to 500 and lesson seven subitizes
up to 1000.
My daughters were capable of recognizing the number four without
counting four objects, but given four objects, they inevitably
tried to count them anyway. This DVD helped make it a game to skip
the counting step and recognize what they already knew. I can see
where the DVD has helped them develop an understanding of numbers
and the connections between them.
The entire DVD is dedicated to helping students creatively embrace
mental math with speed and ease. The Movie Makers website also
offers teaching helps and activities through downloadable resources.
While I have greatly appreciated the introduction to the concept
of subitizing, the cost of the DVD prevents me from recommending
it to anyone. I believe $24.99 is a lot of money to spend on any
movie, let alone a movie with such poor graphics. Unaware of the
price at first, I was already skeptical when I realized that the
characters' names were TT and Bebo and that they were children,
not chimpanzees as the names implied. This didn't seem to bother
my daughters, but after watching the characters reach their treasure,
which happened to be a hoagie, my seven year old railed, "They
traveled to the arctic circle and outer space . . . for a sandwich?
Did they seriously not pass a restaurant along the way?" And I
have to agree with her; it was a bit silly.
The lessons taught were excellent lessons, but the vehicle used
to teach them consisted of bad script, bad acting, and bad special
effects. This is unfortunate because, as I said, the lessons truly
are beneficial. I hope that a new vehicle for presenting those
lessons can be found.
Product review by Jennifer Harrison, The Old Schoolhouse^{®} Magazine,
LLC, November 2010
