Developmental optometry and indeed the entire world has lost a great man, Dr. Sidney Groffman. Dr. Groffman was an outstanding developmental optometrist who cared deeply about his patients, especially those facing learning challenges. He was also a world-renowned educator, writer and editor. Not only did he teach so many of us how to be better doctors, but he was a role model for how to be a better human being inside and outside the office. Dr. Groffman served as editor of COVD’s journal for many years. He was the recipient of both the Skeffington Award (1995) and the Getman Award (1996).
Dr. Groffman’s writings are so extensive, that it is difficult to focus on one topic. As a teacher, Dr. Groffman always pushed us to begin at a theoretical level and put those ideas into play in the clinical setting. A perfect example is this article he wrote about subitizing and its relationship to math deficits. It is a wonderful example of how he was always thinking outside the box to find ways to help his patients.
“Subitizing is the direct visual perceptual apprehension of the numerosity of a group. It is the accurate quantitative evaluation of small sets without counting. It is the ability to instantly see how many.” Subitizing is different from counting. It is fast and accurate and does not require an increase in response time as the number of items increases. But, it is typically utilized for no more than four or five items. Counting, on the other hand, is used for more than four items but it is slower and less accurate. Response time increase steeply as the number of items increases. However, subitizing emerges at an early age, before counting and is thought to be a precursor to counting. Research over the years has shown that individuals with poor subitizing skills have poor arithmetic and skills and difficulty with higher mathematical concepts. Many of these children are diagnosed with a mathematics learning disability (MLD) or dyscalculia. Sound math skills are of prime importance in everyday life and a requisite for many (if not most) occupations and professions. Mathematical illiteracy and MLD require serious attention, not only from the educational system, but from developmental optometrists as well.
Dr. Groffman designed several computer programs to enhance subitizing skills. These programs also enhance visual processing skills that are at the foundation of visual perception: visual attention, perceptual speed, short term visual memory, working memory, simultaneous processing, just to name a few. Research and clinical experience has shown the importance of many of these visual skills to math and all types of learning difficulties. Developmental optometrists are encouraged to add subitizing activities to their clinical arsenal in the therapy room.
Here’s a subitizing game you can start using today!