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Maths:Using fingers beyond year 1?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by SomeDogsDo, Feb 23, 2019.

  1. SomeDogsDo

    SomeDogsDo New commenter

    I am quite new to teaching KS1 and KS2, having previously worked in Early years. I'd love to hear people's opinions on students using their fingers for example, when they don't possess the mental number fact recall in maths lessons. Is there a point at which this is to be discouraged? Should it be encouraged?

  2. keystage2maths

    keystage2maths New commenter

    Encouraged, definitely. If a Year 2 child is counting on their fingers rather than needing cubes or a number line, they're doing well.
  3. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Star commenter

    I really don't have a problem if students are occasionally using their fingers in Year 6! I know many adults who do this and I don't feel it has an adverse effect on their lives overall! Some of my Year 6s do it out of habit; some say it helps them 'to be sure'. The majority don't do it at all - but as long as they're feeling secure and confident - and making progress, I don't see it as an issue at all.
  4. Wotton

    Wotton Lead commenter

    Once when teaching Y2 overseas a young lad was counting on his fingers and then moved his chair back and continued on his toes. Had to admire his ingenuity and the advantage of warm weather allowing the wearing of sandals all year round.
  5. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Definitely to be encouraged, right up until the person moves on from this life.

    If someone doesn't have instant recall of a fact, then they don't have it. Telling them 'Don't count on your fingers! Think child! Think!' isn't going to magically make the fact appear correctly in their mind. A quick count on fingers is much more sensible.

    And, whatever the paper, you'll always have your fingers with you in a maths exam...even, as I recall, at university where it wasn't unknown for the odd person to do a quick count on fingers for something or other.

    From your other thread, you seem to be teaching LKS2, definitely allow/encourage fingers!
  6. SomeDogsDo

    SomeDogsDo New commenter

    Thank you for your replies. That is very encouraging and had been my instinct. I love the story about the child using their toes too- wonderful!
  7. MissKitCat

    MissKitCat New commenter

    Definitely let them use their fingers - I still sometimes use mine when doing work on timestables. I teach in UKS2!
  8. gainly

    gainly Lead commenter

    I show my weaker GCSE students how to do the nine times table with their fingers. They think it's great and are amazed no one has shown them before.
  9. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    I had a student show me an ingenious way of counting to 100 using just their fingers. They used their right hand for units and left for tens. They lifted their fingers up to count to five in the normal way, then to get a six they joined their thumb and little finger, seven thumb and ring and so on up to nine.

    (I was impressed)
  10. carriecat10

    carriecat10 Established commenter Community helper

  11. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Glad it's not just me using fingers sometimes! Not really surprised, though. They are digits, after all.
  12. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Sorry to crash a primary thread but today whilst helping a Year 8 with angles on a straight line I said I couldn't do 180-130 because I didn't have 180 fingers. Fortunately they found another method for solving that.

    I'm secondary maths supply (degree in Maths as well) and I'm often waving my fingers around whilst trying to help kids work out the answer for themselves.
  13. MonstieBags

    MonstieBags Occasional commenter

    Hi have a maths degree and still use my fingers sometimes
    it's kinaesthetic and you can use fingers to drum rhythms to help with counting in twos threes fours
    ideal for number bonds - you can bend two fingers over and feel the other 8 without looking.
    Look out for children who always start at 1 - remind them that every time, there are five fingers on each hand!
  14. Flanks

    Flanks Senior commenter

    Use of fingers is actively encouraged in all building of number sense.

    Anyone actively discouraging it is actively harming the child's education.
  15. Maths_Shed

    Maths_Shed Occasional commenter

    I'm not in primary education so I'm coming from a slightly different angle but in general I would prefer students to know their times tables as facts because calculations inevitably lead to errors, however infrequent. That said, I actively encourage students who don't know them to be using fingers and thumbs as they are less likely to make errors that way than by trying to do it in their head and ultimately they won't have a grid in an exam with them so they need a method of calculating.

    Anyone know of fingers and thumbs methods from around the world? I have encountered plenty of children from non UK backgrounds counting using the gaps between joints so you can count up to 12 using the fingers on one hand but many years ago one child had a method for doing more complex calculations that I didn't spend enough time trying to learn and have since forgotten.

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