It is an innate behavior of children that they will use their hands to count and work out sums, and parents tend to encourage this behavior. It is only later in life that they are told not to rely on their fingers so much. But how would children’s learning be different if they did not use their fingers so much? That is the question that a new study published in Frontiers in Education aims to answer.
The leader of the study, Tim Jay, has confirmed that counting on fingers definitely makes it much easier for young children to learn mathematics. “The fingers provide children with a ‘bridge’ between different representations of numbers, which can be verbal, written or symbolic,” says Jay.
The study was done with 137 children aged between 6 and 7, who played different mathematical games. Among these 137 children, a small group of them played games that required them to use their fingers in different ways: counting with their fingers, adding their fingers, pressing their fingertips and so on. And the results were clear: the small group of children that had to use their fingers did significantly better. Later, the children who originally played games without using their fingers and then used their fingers also showed an improvement. “Combining finger training and games with numbers could be a tool for teachers to more effectively support children’s numerical understanding,” says Jay.
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