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Number Sense: Quantity Discrimination

Quantity Discrimination

Show a little kid two sticks of cotton candy – one big and the other small. Ask which one they want. If he or she likes cotton candy at all, chances are the default choice is the larger stick of candy. Why? Because most people enjoy eating sweet treats, and they want the stick with more cotton candy. The child looked at the two sets, compared the size, and determined which one is more. That skill is called visual discrimination, and it’s the underpinning for our topic today – Quantity Discrimination.

quantity cotton candy 1

What is Quantity Discrimination?

Now consider two sets of lollipops. The first is just a single lollipop. The second set has 4.  Ask a group of kids which set they would like to have. Most likely, the children pick the set with 4 pieces. Why? Even though they may not have counted each piece out, they probably chose the larger set. As students’ concepts of numbers develop, they subitize quantities and come to know that the set of 4 is more than the set of 1. And, they want more candy! 

Quantity Discrimination in the Classroom

Quantity discrimination in math is the ability to identify and compare the number of items in a set. This skill is important for understanding basic operations like addition and subtraction. It’s also important for more challenging concepts like fractions and decimals. To this end, developing effective quantity discrimination skills can help children to increase their number sense and overall proficiency in math.

Number Sense is Important

What’s more, having a strong sense of numbers is important for many reasons. Number sense helps us understand relationships between numbers. This can be important for problem-solving and strategic thinking. In fact, number sense is something that can be strengthened even beyond school life and can be incredibly beneficial in day-to-day interactions. Children begin developing number sense well before entering kindergarten. However, it is important to remember that quantity discrimination is just one of many areas of number sense.

Quantity Discrimination

Why is Quantity Discrimination an Important Math Skill?

Quantity discrimination is an essential skill because it helps to develop students’ foundational understanding of number values. It also helps students make connections with the relationships between those numbers. Consequently, this understanding is necessary for more complex math skills like addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Additionally, quantity discrimination helps children learn to compare and contrast amounts of a given item.

We Use it Everyday

This knowledge can be applied to a wide range of everyday situations. Take the example from above… if a child is presented with two groups of objects, they can use their quantity discrimination skills to determine which group has more or fewer objects. This know-how is also useful for recognizing patterns and estimating quantities, both of which can be invaluable skills in many areas of life.

What is Beginning Quantity Discrimination?

Beginning Quantity Discrimination (BQD) is the ability to recognize and understand the difference between two sets of objects or numbers. They are simultaneously able to recognize which set has more or less items in it. This skill typically develops around the age of two and deepens as children interact more and more with their world. BQD is closely linked to subitizing, which is the ability to recognize the value of a given set quickly without counting.

What is Advanced Quantity Discrimination?

Advanced Quantity Discrimination (AQD) is the ability to discriminate values between groups of objects or sets and identify the group with the greater number of items. Kids and adults undoubtedly use this skill daily. For example, we must rely on this skill when we need to distinguish between amounts of money, items in a grocery store, or people in a group. Furthermore, students need AQD when working with scenarios and problems involving estimation, multiplication, and division.

Assessing Quantity Discrimination

Does your school use aimsweb quantity discrimination assessments, or some other benchmark assessment, for your kindergarten or first grade students? If so, you know students must be able to identify the greater value in a set of given numbers very quickly. This obviously takes practice. You can have your kiddos ready with this freebie! Get instant access to these quantity discrimination worksheets for assessing number sense in your classroom! 

How Do You Teach Quantity Discrimination?

This early numeracy skill can be taught using a wide variety of learning activities. Tasks such as counting objects and sorting them into groups help to develop number concepts. You can also use visual aids and manipulatives such as number cards, number lines, rekenreks, and ten frames to help children understand quantity. Additionally, incorporating quantity discrimination games into your math lessons can make them more engaging and effective.

Teaching Tips & Freebies!

Be on the lookout for an upcoming blog post about quantity discrimination! I’ll share detailed math activities to strengthen this critical component of number sense. You can connect to the TeacherMood email list to get insider access to teaching tips, blog posts, freebies, and more!

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    One Response

    1. Each year I have a couple of students who struggle with number sense. It seems that incorporating quantity discrimination should be helpful. I am looking forward to your next post with the detailed quantity discrimination activities to use in the classroom.

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