Number Talks with Dot Cards: Subitizing, Number Sense, Facts (Part 1)

Do you see 3 + 4 =7 or perhaps 5 + 2 = 7? Maybe you see 3 + 2 + 2 = 7.

I have been using dot cards for many years with K-2 students as part of my Number Talks routine. I’d like to share some ways to follow this routine using both ten frame dot cards and random dot cards.  These are also easy to use via distance learning situations.

If you haven’t tried this before, you are in for a treat!  It is so nice to listen how students process their thinking. I never cease to be amazed at how developed a child’s thoughts can be expressed . . . and how many children take this as a challenge to see how many ways a dot picture can be explained.  I often feel I learn so much about my students capabilities (or sometimes the deficits) during this type of Number Talk session.  Look for my recommended links below (FREE).

What are the benefits?:

1. Students gain the ability to subitize (tell a quantity without physically counting).
2. Students gain number sense by noticing more dots, less dots, patterns aid counting, the same quantity can be shown different ways, sequencing numbers, skip counting, and many more.
3. Students gain the ability to see many different ways a number can be composed or decomposed which assists with addition and subtraction facts.
4. Students gain practice with strategies such as counting on, add/subtract 1, doubles, near doubles, adding 9, adding 10, missing addends, and equal groups.
5. Teachers are able to observe students’ processing skills in an informal math setting.

Materials needed:

1. Ten frame dot cards:  This set is FREE from TPT and includes ten frame cards as well as random dot cards. Great find!!  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/FreeDownload/Number-Talks-Early-Level-Starter-Pack-10-Frames-and-Dot-Cards-4448073
2. Random dot cards (not on ten frames)

General procedures:

1. Decide how you are going to show the cards:
• Show to students who are seated near the teacher?
• Show to students via a document camera projected to a screen?
• Show to students online with a split screen?
• Show to students via a ppt?
2. Depending on the grade level, you may want to flash the card quickly to encourage subitizing or shorten/extend the time the card is shown.
• To encourage subitzing to 5, I recommend flashing the card for a couple of seconds for dots from 1-5 for all age groups.
• Depending on the number of dots and the complexity of the dots, you may choose to shorten or extend the time you display the card for amounts more than 5.  The goal is for the students to look for patterns, equal groups, doubles, dots making squares, rectangles, or triangles, determine a quantity, and then explain how they arrived at that amount.
3. Students put a quiet thumbs up when they have decided the quantity.  They should not say the amount outloud at this point. This shows respect for others who are still processing.
4. The teacher observes to see who is counting, who is participating, who uses fingers, who is quick /slow, etc.
5. Teacher asks random students, “How many dots?”
6. Teacher asks random students, “How did you see them?”
7. Results can be stated verbally or written down by the teacher.

Here are some examples with sums less than 10:

Here are examples using 2 ten frames to illustrate quantities greater than 10:

Next post:  I will feature ways to use the random dot cards for your Number Talk sessions.

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