How do I get my 6 y.o. to stop counting with her fingers? - Page 2 - Mothering Forums
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#31 of 100 Old 06-16-2010, 05:16 PM
 
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I still use my fingers particularly when I'm distracted- it's a concrete way to ensure that I focus enough to ensure accuracy....

I had a proctor laughing at my finger-counting method when I took my SATs years ago, but I wound up with a perfect 1600 (yep, THAT many year ago...) so apparently it worked.
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#32 of 100 Old 06-16-2010, 05:25 PM
 
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At the school my kids attend, 1st graders are not allowed to count on their fingers in math class.
That's very unusual. I've never heard of in our area at all. Our district is considered very high in math and they don't encourage or discourage using fingers. Kids have their own style. If they are struggling finding a style, they are given some options like fingers, tallies or number lines but as long as they are growing in the subject, there is no requirements on what they use to compute.

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#33 of 100 Old 06-16-2010, 05:34 PM
 
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I admit that the Catholic school my kids attend is very old fashioned in many ways (one of the things I love about it). They are allowed to make tally marks, but for homework we did flashcards every night for memorization with addition. If a student was counting on his or her fingers during class, they were instructed not to.
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#34 of 100 Old 06-16-2010, 06:27 PM
 
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If a student was counting on his or her fingers during class, they were instructed not to.
It's just a good thing my DD didn't go there. Like I said, she's 13 and still uses fingers at times despite being about 3 years ahead in the math curriculum. We did flashcards everynight in the early grades when speed tests were in use but it made not a lick of difference. My DS is the total opposite. He does everything in his head... he's just built that way.

I'm surprised parents don't speak up about it as it's a practice that can sour kids against math before they ever realize they may have unusual aptitude for it.

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#35 of 100 Old 06-17-2010, 03:19 AM
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I admit that the Catholic school my kids attend is very old fashioned in many ways (one of the things I love about it). They are allowed to make tally marks, but for homework we did flashcards every night for memorization with addition. If a student was counting on his or her fingers during class, they were instructed not to.
Tally marks and using fingers are basically the same strategies. In both instances the child has a visual representation of the problem to help them solve it. I think it is silly to allow one visual representation but not another, especially when both serve the same purpose. Having a wide variety of techniques to choose from when solving problems makes math accessible to all children. I remember memorizing my math facts, but I still used my fingers until they made sense to me and I was able to visualize the regrouping process that is involved with adding and subtracting.
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#36 of 100 Old 06-17-2010, 12:03 PM
 
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At the school my kids attend, 1st graders are not allowed to count on their fingers in math class.
I have to say I find it sad and a little disturbing that a school would discourage such a natural and obvious learning strategy. It's hard to draw conclusions from one comment, but it doesn't sound like there's an understanding of different learning styles.
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#37 of 100 Old 06-17-2010, 01:21 PM
 
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I understand completely why this is bothering you.

Before DS started this year of preschool, he counted in a clear voice. Each number was clearly said as a separate entity and easily understood and distinct. Now he slurs the numbers together in a sing-songy manner.

With DS I know exactly how he picked it up. This a particular boy, B, who DS liked to do work with (it's a Montessori school) and B talks that way.

It drives me completely batty when DS counts this way. We were seeing a developmental Dr for a behavior issue DS has been having and she commented about it.

I do correct DS. I also remind myself that mimicking the speech patterns of those around you is generally a good thing.


While I agree with PP that finger counting is in and of itself fine, I would be concerned that she is not doing math the way that is her natural way to do it. Over the summer, I would just try to ask her math questions when she just happens to have her hands full. Say you go to the supermarket to buy fruit and she is holding a bag of 4 apples, ask her how many oranges you need to have 8 pieces of fruit.

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#38 of 100 Old 06-17-2010, 01:26 PM
 
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While I agree with PP that finger counting is in and of itself fine, I would be concerned that she is not doing math the way that is her natural way to do it.
This is an excellent point. I hadn't thought of it in those terms. Thank you.
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#39 of 100 Old 06-17-2010, 01:42 PM
 
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I'm almost 30 and I still use my fingers sometimes. lol I don't see what the big deal is.

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#40 of 100 Old 06-17-2010, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Mamas,

Thank you very much for your opinions. They are helpful to me.

Eepster, your comments are very insightful and I was glad to read them. I especially think this suggestion will be very helpful for me.
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While I agree with PP that finger counting is in and of itself fine, I would be concerned that she is not doing math the way that is her natural way to do it. Over the summer, I would just try to ask her math questions when she just happens to have her hands full. Say you go to the supermarket to buy fruit and she is holding a bag of 4 apples, ask her how many oranges you need to have 8 pieces of fruit.
Your idea also gave me a little smile. I had better make sure to be ready to catch the fruit the first time I try the supermarket thing in case she drops all of the fruit when she tries to get at her fingers. Otherwise, I had better be prepared to buy a bunch of bruised fruit.
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#41 of 100 Old 06-17-2010, 04:39 PM
 
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You are probably correct in your assertion that they are fairly rigid in their approach. It is not a public school and most parents who chose it know what they are getting; we did. IMO, it is about finding the right school for your child and my kids LOVE this school and have flourished there. All three of my kids had this class with this teacher and all are wonderful math students. I am sure there are some students who might struggle with this approach, but based purely on test scores, most do very well.

I guess the no-counting on fingers doesn't seem weird to me. I don't do it; I really don't know anyone who does. I work a tutoring lab afterschool and I don't see any of the math students doing it. I guess most reponses are based on experiences.
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#42 of 100 Old 06-18-2010, 12:18 AM
 
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emilysmama, I can relate, my son did the same thing up to and halfway through K (and like a pp mentioned, he is sensitive to what the teacher wants/class is doing). I don't know, I didn't stress so much about it, however I did ask him to try some of the problems he was doing (for fun, workbook page for school, etc) in his head instead of using his fingers. I reminded him he can do it that way, and I also said, maybe its easier for some kids to use their fingers, but you seemed to be doing well just thinking of the answer in your head. I'm aware of (all) my kids sensitivity to the social environment. If my son happened to come back with something like 'well, Mrs. X says we should use our fingers' than I know its just a quick email or chat with her so she understands that he can do it well without using them. Teachers only know as much about their students as the kids are able or willing to share, so I think having a child in school, as their parents, our job includes sharing information with the teacher. Nothing against finger counting obviously, but I think early on, kids may be faced with different methods for doing things, and clearly your child had a method natural to her thinking.
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#43 of 100 Old 06-19-2010, 11:53 PM
 
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Eepster's comment on encouraging your daughter to do math the way that comes naturally to her was exactly on target for my son, also. Trickier in practice, for us, at least in a school setting; asking the teacher to teach differently wasn't a good solution (for reasons that are too complicated to get into here, and hopefully not relevant to the OP).

DS was less receptive to casual encouragement to do the exact kind of problems his teacher had set in different ways and more receptive to doing mental math for different, harder problems.

Greg Tang has some picture books that might be a good fit, if you are looking for summer enrichment.

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#44 of 100 Old 06-20-2010, 08:06 AM
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i think that the updating changes the facts a bit. that is to say, some children do learn math in a non-visual way (counting on fingers being visual), and your child might be one of them, who was then encouraged to learn it in a different way.

i had a similar experience in jr high. i was in the pre algebra class, and learned a specific method of doing this one method of problem solving. i then switched schools, and had to take prealgebra again, because they didn't teach algebra there. the teacher at the new school taught a different method for solving the problems. knowing two methods, i preferred the first one i was taught. i asked the teacher if i could use that method. her answer: no.

each test question and homework question was graded in components. essentially, the answer wasn't the only part graded, but how you arrived at the answer. thus, if you ddi the figuring basically right, but had a subtraction error in the middle (leading to teh wrong numerical result) you could still get nearly full credit for the problem. the answer would be wrong--docking off one point of five, but there would be no points taken for a subtraction error, simply a reminder to be careful with the basics.

now, i preferred the first method because 1. it made sense to my mind, and 2. i was used to it. it took me quite a bit of work to 'untrain' myself from the original method, because the teacher would dock 4 points for using that method, even fi the answer was correct. so, i had to learn how to use it.

it was a nightmare for me. i would end up always figuring wrong somewhere in the third or fourth step (subtraction errors), and then having the wrong answer in the end, and given remedial work in subtraction.

my father then suggested that i do the two methods side-by-side. this way, i could figure the right answer with the method with which i was comfortable, and then apply her method and "check" it against the method i prefer. luckily, i was quick at the first method, but i would often be the last to finish the test.

the teacher tried to take points for my alternative method, but my father stepped in and told her no. he essentially said i was doing double work to please her grading system, but it was more important to him that i got the math problems right, than i learned her preferred method.

i had a lot of problems at that school. LOL

anyway, i can understand being concerned about your daughter doing math in a way that is now antithesis to how her mind works with math. it would bother me also. but, i would let it go, and also see if i can find ways to encourage her in math back to her own methods.

if that makes any sense. LOL
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#45 of 100 Old 06-20-2010, 11:16 AM
 
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if that makes any sense. LOL
I never understood that. (I understood your story...just not the mindset of the teacher). Our job is to inspire a love of learning. If the teacher does not love learning something from the student (she obviously didn't want to know your way) then why would the student want to learn from the teacher?
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#46 of 100 Old 06-20-2010, 11:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, everyone, for continuing to post. It is very helpful and heartening to read them.
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#47 of 100 Old 06-21-2010, 12:23 AM
 
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I never understood that. (I understood your story...just not the mindset of the teacher). Our job is to inspire a love of learning. If the teacher does not love learning something from the student (she obviously didn't want to know your way) then why would the student want to learn from the teacher?


Sometimes I have a particular way of teaching something because I know it will serve as the basis for something to come later.

Now, I would never count against someone for working out the answer twice two different ways. Indeed, when my students ask if they can just "write out all the zeros" instead of use scientific notation, my response tends to be that it's fine, but they need to write out the scientific notation alongside it.

I'm now cynical enough about how math is taught at this level that my guess in the story above, though, is that the teacher didn't understand the first way she was taught.

However, this story illustrates something important. Even if my child is not a visual mathematician -- using fingers or tallies or a number line-- I want her to understand what it means and how it's equivalent to how she naturally thinks about it. It makes for a much more solid understanding of the math. Give each way some practice, but then let the kid use what's most natural.

The fact that she's using her fingers makes me think that it's more natural to how her brain works now. It worked differently a year ago. Now this is how it works. Not better or worse, just different.
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#48 of 100 Old 06-21-2010, 01:23 AM
 
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i think that the updating changes the facts a bit. that is to say, some children do learn math in a non-visual way (counting on fingers being visual), and your child might be one of them, who was then encouraged to learn it in a different way.

i had a similar experience in jr high. i was in the pre algebra class, and learned a specific method of doing this one method of problem solving. i then switched schools, and had to take prealgebra again, because they didn't teach algebra there. the teacher at the new school taught a different method for solving the problems. knowing two methods, i preferred the first one i was taught. i asked the teacher if i could use that method. her answer: no.

each test question and homework question was graded in components. essentially, the answer wasn't the only part graded, but how you arrived at the answer. thus, if you ddi the figuring basically right, but had a subtraction error in the middle (leading to teh wrong numerical result) you could still get nearly full credit for the problem. the answer would be wrong--docking off one point of five, but there would be no points taken for a subtraction error, simply a reminder to be careful with the basics.

now, i preferred the first method because 1. it made sense to my mind, and 2. i was used to it. it took me quite a bit of work to 'untrain' myself from the original method, because the teacher would dock 4 points for using that method, even fi the answer was correct. so, i had to learn how to use it.

it was a nightmare for me. i would end up always figuring wrong somewhere in the third or fourth step (subtraction errors), and then having the wrong answer in the end, and given remedial work in subtraction.

my father then suggested that i do the two methods side-by-side. this way, i could figure the right answer with the method with which i was comfortable, and then apply her method and "check" it against the method i prefer. luckily, i was quick at the first method, but i would often be the last to finish the test.

the teacher tried to take points for my alternative method, but my father stepped in and told her no. he essentially said i was doing double work to please her grading system, but it was more important to him that i got the math problems right, than i learned her preferred method.

i had a lot of problems at that school. LOL

anyway, i can understand being concerned about your daughter doing math in a way that is now antithesis to how her mind works with math. it would bother me also. but, i would let it go, and also see if i can find ways to encourage her in math back to her own methods.

if that makes any sense. LOL
I would suspect that one of the methods was incorrect.

It is possible to come up with the right answer in pre-algebra problems by using arithmetic. The problem is that this doesn't teach the algebraic methodology necessary to solve more complex algebra.

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#49 of 100 Old 06-21-2010, 01:37 AM
 
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I don't see finger-counting as a crutch at all. In fact, I kind of see it as a reflection of a true understanding of math and using all tools available. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing "in the head" is often just simple memorization that does not reflect an understanding of the subject. At least, not always and not for all people. Of course, some people can't help memorizing facts and nothing against them, I just don't understand it LOL. I'm just not wired to memorize figures and dates. But I'm biased. I'm a finger-counter and managed (as an English major, mind you!) to voluntarily take calculus and do well. I've seen people do complex operations on their fingers. It's fascinating to watch.

My DD1 is 6 and uses her fingers to count. She touches the finger to her lips to count each one and I think it's adorable!

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#50 of 100 Old 06-21-2010, 03:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi mamas,

OP here! Thanks for continuing to post your thoughts on this thread. I guess that I have become cynical about the way math is taught without realizing it. You are all giving me much to think about.
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#51 of 100 Old 06-21-2010, 07:18 PM
 
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I'll confess that some days I still count on my fingers. When I woke up this morning, I was trying to figure out how many hours of sleep I'd gotten last night (i.e. could I stay in bed, or did I need to get up). Guess what? I was counting on my fingers to keep track!

Mind you, I've also done multivariate statistics and advanced calculus. I'm good at math, but sometimes those fingers really help!

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#52 of 100 Old 06-21-2010, 09:38 PM
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well, i suppose it is suspect, because i can't even remember that the notation process is called.

but, i was taught one method by the teacher in 7th grade. she was a prealgebra teacher. i was taught the second method in 8th grade by the teacher. she was a preschool teacher, asked to teach 7/8th grades that year because the other 7/8 grade teacher was on sabbatical. so, she taught "by the book." we learned this about mid-way through my 8th grade year, when the school offered me tutoring. the tutor was a part time math teacher through the university, and she informed me that both methods are correct, but one takes up less space than the other.

after that, the tutor was my math teacher, and i was able to forgo prealgebra with the other teacher.
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#53 of 100 Old 06-21-2010, 09:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by emilysmama View Post
Hi mamas,

OP here! Thanks for continuing to post your thoughts on this thread. I guess that I have become cynical about the way math is taught without realizing it. You are all giving me much to think about.
I think you're right to pay attention to this. I've unfortunately spent the last 6 months or so looking at the deep-dark underbelly of math instruction in my daughter's "top ranked" school. Math education at the primary level can be a scary thing.

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I'll confess that some days I still count on my fingers. When I woke up this morning, I was trying to figure out how many hours of sleep I'd gotten last night (i.e. could I stay in bed, or did I need to get up). Guess what? I was counting on my fingers to keep track!

Mind you, I've also done multivariate statistics and advanced calculus. I'm good at math, but sometimes those fingers really help!
Many people confuse arithmetic with mathematics. Remember that most of what is called "math" at this level is really just manipulating numbers, which is a different beast all together. I'm a great mathematician. My arithmetic is so-so. You don't hit what I call mathematics until algebra or so, unless you're really lucky and get a lot of logic mathematics earlier. It saddens me that so many people get turned off the number crunching so early they never see that math is just a series of logical statements.

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well, i suppose it is suspect, because i can't even remember that the notation process is called.

but, i was taught one method by the teacher in 7th grade. she was a prealgebra teacher. i was taught the second method in 8th grade by the teacher. she was a preschool teacher, asked to teach 7/8th grades that year because the other 7/8 grade teacher was on sabbatical. so, she taught "by the book." we learned this about mid-way through my 8th grade year, when the school offered me tutoring. the tutor was a part time math teacher through the university, and she informed me that both methods are correct, but one takes up less space than the other.

after that, the tutor was my math teacher, and i was able to forgo prealgebra with the other teacher.
Yeah, what you described is often the kind of answer I'm getting used to hearing when the teacher doesn't actually understand the math (and yes, math here, not arithmetic) being taught. When you really understand it, finding the value in an equally effective algorithm is generally pretty easy.
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#54 of 100 Old 06-22-2010, 06:29 AM
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i find your post quite nice, geofizz. i always understand the theory of what i'm doing when it came to math, but the addition/subtraction would foul me up. i seriously do have to do that part on my fingers or with tick marks. but i loved calculus! lol so, perhaps i am good at math, but no arithmetic.

i feel better.
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#55 of 100 Old 06-22-2010, 10:36 AM
 
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I have a friend who is a tenured professor of mathematics and a department head at a university. He often tells people who say "I'm terrible with numbers" that he can go all day working on his research before he might need to use numbers - maybe a 4 or a 6! He laughs because it's often the business major types he's talking to. If anyone needs facility with arithmetic, it should be the CEOs, CFOs and marketing types. It sure explains messes like Enron.
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#56 of 100 Old 06-23-2010, 01:21 AM
 
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There are some definite connections with the physical act of using ones hands and learning. I am sure someone out there has some more concrete info to add here but this came up in one of my graduate level education classes and basically (what I remember- I'm pleading baby brain on this one) is that it helps our brains process information better when our bodies are involved. Even people who have been blind all their lives will gesture using their hands when they speak - which rules out social conditioning - think about it. How many of us communicate without our hands? It helps us to think. Its completely normal to use our hands while we are thinking and is unfortunate that the idea that counting with ones fingers means that we ain't so smart trying to prevent children from using their fingers for math is, in my mind, similar to trying to prevent left-handedness and other nonsense
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#57 of 100 Old 06-23-2010, 10:12 AM
 
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My dd still uses her fingers and she is getting pressure to stop.She just turned 11.She asked why the pressure and all I could come up with is that some people feel finger counting is childish,and should be given up like not watching cartoons when you are older.

Personally I have no issue with it,but with teachers and family nagging her I doubt my reassurances will help her.Poor thing tries to hide it like she was doing something terrible. I think the pressue will affect her overall abilities/comfort with math related stuff.

I would say let it go,but you are the parent and should do what you feel is best.
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#58 of 100 Old 06-29-2010, 07:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, mamas, for sharing your ideas and experiences. You have given me much to chew on.
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#59 of 100 Old 06-29-2010, 08:26 PM
 
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My 10 year old still counts on his fingers for his math. But he is memorizing more and more all the time. I just figure that it will all come together for him eventually.
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#60 of 100 Old 07-05-2010, 12:09 PM
 
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The reason finger counting is discouraged is because it slows down the whole calculation process. Fast recall of of arithmetic facts are essential for questions from "There are 8 eggs in a basket and 3 are taken out. How many are left?" through to "Solve 7x + 3 = 52" and beyond.

Yes there are calculation methods which use the fingers to work out calculations at super fast speed, which is great if you're going to train your child to do that but leaving your child to finger count while her classmates move ahead because they have memorised the arithmetic facts is just not fair.

Try starting from the basics, memorising +1's first, then +2's , then +3's. I talk in more detail about this on my blog
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