But if you’re not, don’t let your child finger count
Here are my 4 reasons why you should wean your child from using their fingers;
1 Finger counting is just a visual starter
Finger counting is an introductory skill, in order for children to have a visual understanding of number facts, not the final method to be used for calculations. According to mathematical development research, ” children generally move from the less-efficient strategies using their fingers, to the more efficient strategies without finger use (Geary, Hoard, Nugent, & Byrd-Craven, 2007).”
2 Finger counting discourages memorisation of maths facts
Many things in life will need to be memorised in the future by your child, finger counting closes their mind to this essential skill. According to mental maths research, “When Chinese children could not retrieve an addition fact directly from memory, they tended to count verbally, whereas the American children tended to count on their fingers or guess.” The Chinese children scored better in addition facts tests.
3 Finger counting slows down the whole calculation process.
Further adult numeracy research “noted that those who consistently relied on finger-counting were unable to increase their speed and/or were unable to complete of the problems within the time constraints.” Fast recall of of arithmetic facts are essential for questions from “There are 8 eggs in a basket and 3 are taken out. How many are left?” through to “Solve 7x + 3 = 52” and beyond.
4 Finger counting puts them at a disadvantage in the class
Leaving your child to finger count while her classmates move ahead because they have memorised the arithmetic facts is just not fair.
So what’s the finger counting remedy?
- Use other physical objects when introducing the concept of counting and adding on. I’m a great fan of using chocolate chips or raisins as a tasty prop when practicing preschool number facts.
- For memorisation, try starting from the basics, memorising +1’s first, then +2’s , then +3’s. I talk in more detail in Who Else Wants Their Child to be Lightening Fast at Mental Maths
- For audio learners, listen to number facts on a CD or online
- Visual learners, can use printed or online flashcards to aid memorisation.