# Counting on fingers

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Is this a 'bad' thing ?

At first, I discouraged it, because I wanted him to memorize the facts, but it seems like he's counting fingers for some, and as he does it, he IS memorizing them.

I notice now he counts fingers for mostly 'new' facts, so I'm wondering if I am making a mountain of a molehill?

Like, maybe his finger-counting helps more than the flashcards for him?

(1st grader, 1st year of homeschool)

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In Asian countries, counting is discouraged because it's slow and unreliable (too easy to miscount and wind up with the wrong number). Instead, they're encouraged to see quantities in groups of 5s or 10s. So 8 is seen as 5 + 3 and 12 is seen as 10 + 2. This makes it easier to visualize and do mental calculations.

I really like the Right Start abacus as a manipulative because it helps with this kind of visualization. Even if you're using another program, I think it would be beneficial for your child.

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I've read that it's okay if children count on their fingers, especially in the beginning. It's almost like having built in "manipulatives". My daughter did it for a while, but has grown out of it now that she's got her memorization facts down. I wouldn't worry about it if he's mostly doing it with newly introduced facts.

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I also wanted to give you my personal story. I was one who never memorized my addition facts and counted on my fingers. I did this until I began teaching my first dd. Then through teaching her Saxon math, I began to understand how to use tricks to figure the answer instead of counting on my fingers.

I'm not sure what combination of resources helped me get this, but I know the Al Abacus and the 5's and 10's thing were foundational.

Now, to answer your question about whether it's something to insist upon. I think first graders need a period of concrete counting practice. We used rocks with my first dd, but using the Al Abacus will help him with the concrete thing and with visualizing the 5's and 10's. So, although it would technically work for him to continue to count on fingers, it's not the ideal.:D

Julie

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Interesting. I didn't even think of an abacus.

We also do flash cards, and it seems like he does memorize the facts after dealing with them for a while...but it has caused some tension between us (about the fingers) - so I wanted input from other hs'ers more experienced than we are. Should I or should I not worry, etc. The first year it seems like so much to iron out, hehe.

FWIW, we're using Abeka math.

Edited by jkwynn
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He's in first grade, I wouldn't worry about it right now. I'd watch more about how he is thinking about numbers and adding when using his fingers. But, he's is 1st grade and learning a lot.

My middle child using her fingers as help for manipulatives and a quick help to her, and I still don't see what the big issue is. She usually did it as a way to keep on track. Maybe she is the exception to the rule, I don't think so though.

She's only 9 now and has out grown the need (unless she is distracted by her younger sister and just needs the extra help to concentrate. -- we all get distracted by that youngest one).

She sees her fingers in groups of 5's and 10's and numbers between thanks to using the idea of number bonds like in Singapore math.

Her fingers are quicker to find instead of blocks, beans or other equipment while helping her to mentally think about it while seeing it. But her fingers are not the only thing she used either in those early stages.

Usually she wasn't just counting on her fingers in a way that she'd start at 1 each time. If it was 12-4, she'd count backwards from 12, while just tapping down 4 fingers on one hand. She visually knows 1-10 on her fingers without having to count them each time, so it just helped her stay focused and on track. It helped her to learn the facts more quickly and it self resolved.

And then she used her fingers to help her keep track of skip counting to be able to quickly help learn multiplication and division facts too. So, something seems to click in her brain to help when she uses her fingers as a math manipulative along with other things she is learning.

-crystal

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I was still counting some addition facts on my fingers when I took Calculus my first semester of college. I made a B. I was really fast at counting on my fingers by then!! :D

So, I don't think it is the end of the world, and I don't make a huge issue out of it if my dc do it some. If they were doing it for all their facts all the time, I would figure out how to help them down better. My dd11 always used her fingers at first (and even then ususally got the wrong answer, but that's a whole 'nother thread), but now knows the facts better than I do; that came mainly just from using them frequently in doing her math work and also from brain maturity.

Anyway...after going through Singapore math with my eldest, I no longer need to count on my fingers because I learned the "make a 10" trick and I can visualize the quantities and get the answer.

I am using the Right Start Abacus (even though I use Singapore) to teach my kids because I think it is a great way to get them to learn to visualize those quantities without fingers.

HTH

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Interesting. I didn't even think of an abacus.

We also do flash cards, and it seems like he does memorize the facts after dealing with them for a while...but it has caused some tension between us (about the fingers) - so I wanted input from other hs'ers more experienced than we are. Should I or should I not worry, etc. The first year it seems like so much to iron out, hehe.

FWIW, we're using Abeka math.

It's not just any abacus that will work. It is specifically the Al Abacus sold by Rightstart Math. The reason is the particular way it is set up, to help them visualize the 5 and 10 thing.

HTH

Julie

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I don't worry about it. Hobbes counted on his fingers early on, then slowly started seeing numbers in groups of five and ten (we use Singapore). He now mostly does the latter, but occasionally uses his fingers. It doesn't bother me.

Laura

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I've been wondering the same thing and I very much enjoyed this discussion!

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I too love the AL abacus from Right Start and would discourage counting on fingers. My mom is 56 and still can't add 5 plus 4 without counting it on her fingers- and she is a professional seamstress and fashion designer but yet can't do simple math because she was never taught to find the answer like those described in this thread of finding the 5 and the 10.

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Fingers are great manipulatives, although I do expect my kids to memorize their math facts and eventually no longer need fingers or other items to count. One of my kids in particular will mis-count blocks and rods, but she's never mis-counted her fingers.

At the GIFTSNC (Giving and Getting Information for Teaching Special Needs Children) conference in August, I went to a seminar taught by a tutor from ASDEC (Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center) on Teaching Math Using Orton-Gillingham Principles. In an hour's time, she gave us about a million ways to teach math in a multisensory manner. One of the things she told us about using fingers - if you're doing 3 + 3, for ex, don't just have your child hold up 3 fingers on each hand and count them, but have her hold up 3 fingers on each hand then bring her hands together while chanting in a sing-song voice "3 plus 3 equals 6."

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I think it's fine to start with counting fingers, but the kids have to learn how to count numbers in their mind, and gradually stop finger counting. Sure, it's harder for the kids, but it's really worth it.

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It drove my mom crazy! I finally forced myself to break the habit, because that's what it had become, just a habit. I knew the facts, I just had a bad habit.

Take from this what you will. :tongue_smilie:

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I've read the same thing aout fingers being a "built in manipulative." I allow my son to use his fingers, but we do a good bit of drilling everyday for fact memorization. My older son used his fingers for counting, and grew out of it.

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I don't mind dd doing this. Later I don't want her to though. she has alot of them memorized now anyway.

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I've never allowed my children, now 9 and almost 7, to use their fingers. It is discouraged by many folks on the MUS yahoo forum.

I help some neighbor friends with their homework now and again. I've noticed that the ones who use their fingers to count are struggling in Math. These friends are in the 4th, 5th, & 8th grades.

I used my fingers in the early grades and I struggled with Math until college.

~Karen~

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by the time they're in 3rd and/or memorizing multiplication facts I try to "wean" them off finger counting.

I used Saxon 3 for oldest ds and we're now using MUS for the other 2 dc in 3rd and 2nd gr and both were great for skip counting. We also have a School House Rock audioCD with skip counting songs. Any way to get them skip counting will help them abandon the reliance on fingers, IMHO.

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