Friday 31 August 2018

Response to reading: "Why kids should keep using their fingers to do math"

Link to article

This is SOOOO true. I have seen and heard teachers growl students for using their fingers in maths (yes, even in recent times) and felt horrified.
I am a 23 year old, grown adult... and I count on my fingers. I use them all the time. And personally, actively encourage my students to do so as well.

With the numeracy project came this structure -

Which says that when teaching new concepts, you should start using materials, and when students are ready move to imaging (no materials, or using materials but only looking at them and not moving them around), then once they got that, move onto no materials at all.
With this, came this idea that if you had to use your fingers to count, you were imaging (using materials to help you). Which sure, fingers do kinda count as a material as you aren't doing the math in your head). Hence, using your fingers in maths was actively discouraged and became almost taboo to some teachers.
For me, it depends how you are using your fingers.
If you are using them to count to 10, you are COUNTING.
If you are using them to help you keep track while you skip count in 5's to figure out 9x5, you are TRACKING. 
To me these are completely different things. 

Without using their fingers some students can't keep track of the maths they are doing in their heads.
For example with my current students, those who haven't memorised their times tables use their fingers to track how many skip counts they have done. 
E.g. 9x5 would sound like 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45 and one finger would go up for each number they said. If they didn't have the 9 fingers up, they would have already forgotten how many times they skip counted, or not known to stop at 9 and kept counting till 100.

Using their fingers helps them keep track of mental maths.
And we should let them do it!

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