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Subitize Me! Review by Jennifer Harrison

Movie Makers
931 Woodside Lane
Airdrie, AB T4B 2K2

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 non-standard 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