How Many Dots Do You See?

Primary (Age 6 – 9)

Curriculum Goal

Primary: Number Sense

  • Read and represent whole numbers up to and including 50.
  • Describe various ways this number is used in everyday life.
  • Compose and decompose whole numbers up to and including 50, using a variety of tools and strategies, in various contexts.


  • Teacher-led group activity or pair-based activity at the carpet.



  • Go over configurations of dots with students and prompt a discussion around memorization.
    • What are some common ideas or concepts that we remember?
    • What are some strategies for remembering numbers and images?
  • Game 1 (Dot Dash): Have students state the number of dots they see when one card is shown to them by a teacher or partner.
    • The key is for students to only count the dots if they need to. They can visualize (look at the dots), then verbalize (say how many dots there are) and verify by counting the dots.
  • Game 2 (Hidden Dots): Have students state the number of dots that are covered when a card
    is shown to them with only some dots revealed.
    • Tell students the total number of dots and ask, “How many dots do you see?”
    • Then ask, “How many dots can’t you see?”
    • This order of questioning helps children visualize the number of dots that are not visible.
  • Gather students for an activity summarization. Consider the following prompts for discussion:
    • “Did you remember how many dots?”
    • “How did you remember the dots?”

Look Fors

  • Are students able to subitize to determine the number of dots on the card?
  • Are students using their hands to count the dots?
  • Are they using their hands to determine how many dots are being covered? Or, are they able to visualize the difference?


  • Have students use two dot cards at a time and add the dots together.
    • They may want to count all dots to verify the total, but some will count on from the first dot
      card to the second dot card. Others may simply add the two quantities together.
  • Game 3 (Heads Up!)
    • Students play this game as in groups of three: Student A and B each place a dot card on their forehead. Student C does not have a card but will state the combined sum of dots on Student A and B’s forehead.
    • After Student C calls out the total, Students A and B look at each other’s dot cards (without looking at their own) to see what is missing from the total (i.e., the number of dots on their
    • Students A and B can discuss what the number sentence will be.

Related Lessons

An introductory activity exploring the estimation of number.

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