In a recent article for The Atlantic, Jo Boaler, Professor of Education at Stanford Univerity’s Graduate School of Education, uses new evidence from brain science to support the belief that young children should be allowed to use their fingers to count. Boaler highlights a study published last year concluding that we “see a representation of our fingers in our brains, even when we do not use fingers in calculation. The researchers found that when 8-to-13 year olds were given complex subtraction problems, [an area of the brain that actually creates visuals of fingers] lit up, even though the students did not use their fingers. This finger-representation area was, according to their study, also engaged to a greater extent with more complex problems that involved higher numbers and more manipulation.”
This research further supports our work in math at NPS where finger counting, or what Boaler terms a “visual engagement” with math is one of many skills our students learn at an early age as they strive for math fact automaticity. Unlike the trend of many schools and programs to ban finger counting in the early years as “babyish” or something to abandon as soon as possible, NPS teachers view the use of fingers as yet another tool to support arithmetic skill, counting, and number sense. By the end of 2nd grade, the goal for all students is to be able to recall basic addition and subtraction facts to 18 with ease in preparation for future work in multiplication and division. However, the road to math fact automaticity at all levels is paved with multiple visual representations and finger counting tops the list! Questions about NPS’s math curriculum and/or curriculum in general? Contact Betsy Williams, Math Specialist, or Tara Montague, Director of Studies.