Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fingers and Math

I doubt there is anyone who has not used their fingers sometime when figuring a math problem. Some people will tell a child not to use their fingers, but I encourage it for the younger child. Using fingers helps a child feel math.

If your child (1st - 4th grade) is having trouble with arithmetic, ask him to hold up seven fingers. If he can do this without counting, ask him to hold up seven fingers without holding up all the fingers on either hand. I have seen five-year-old children do this easily and nine-year-olds who had to count their fingers to show the correct number of digits!

If your child had a difficult time with the above exercise, and is over five, here are some hints to help her feel numbers.
  • Call out a number and have your child practice holding up the correct number of  fingers.  Start easy: 1, 2, 5 and 10. Go to 6, 9  and 3. Next try 4 and 8 and finally 7.  
  • See if they can demonstrate the even numbers two different ways. For example: 6 is 5 and 1 and also 3 fingers on each hand.
  • Write a number and see how quickly a child can show it on his fingers.  
  • Have your child do the first three activities under a table or in some way so she can't see her fingers.
  • Hold up a number of fingers and have your child say how many fingers she sees.  
  • Hold up a number of fingers and have your child quickly write the number.
  • Practice addition facts with answers of 10 or below using fingers.
  • Practice subtraction facts with top number 10 or below using fingers.
All activities should be done as quickly as possible. These are short activities. Many can be done for two to three minutes in waiting rooms, at restaurants, etc. They should be done frequently until your child has mastered them.

After a child has a feel for the numbers 1 through 10 he can learn to add a larger number using his fingers.  For the problem 13 + 5.  Gently tap the table with a closed fist and say 13, then open your fist and count up 5 fingers 14, 15 ,16 ,17 18. This does not eliminate the need to memorize math facts. It is a method to demonstrate the concept and give your child some initial tools if needed.

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