Skip to main content

Finger Counters Beware!

Mar 21, 2013 02:27PM ● Published by tina

Having numerical fluency is the foundation for understanding and learning mathematics

Sponsored by Mathnasium of Southlake

By Meredith Jones, Center Director Mathnasium of Southlake

At Mathnasium of Southlake, we strive to develop each student's number sense and fluency and teach in a way that makes sense to them.  A major roadblock to many students from 1st grade into adulthood is finger counting.  We tackle this problem right away in order to build each student's confidence and speed.  Once students are fluent in numbers, math is easier and makes more sense.  Larry Martinek, the creator of Mathnasium, has written many articles concerning this matter.  One of my favorites is about the aforementioned topic of finger counting.  Larry writes:

I want to introduce the importance of “numerical fluency” and learning basic “number facts.”

Picture this scenario.

A teacher asks a classroom,


“If you spend 70 cents, 80 cents, and 90 cents, how much did you spend altogether?”


The teacher is thinking,


“7 + 8 + 9 = 24.  With a zero at the end, the answer would be 240 cents.”


However our “finger counting” students, which is sadly too many of them, are thinking,


 “7 + 8 = 7…8…9…10…11…12…13…14…15,” then “15 + 9 = 15…16…17…18…19…20…21…22…23…24…25 (oops).”


Many times finger counters get the wrong answer because they either count too many or too few.

Now, since the process of “getting it wrong” is so uninspiring and time–consuming, not surprisingly, many students report being “bored” in math class.  In addition, the process has taken so long that the student is no longer in the flow of the lesson, which in this case, is learning about how to “add a 0 at the end.”

The term “number facts” includes all addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems resulting in single–digit and double–digit numbers (up to 24 for addition and subtraction, and 144 for multiplication and division). Examples of number facts include:

3 + 7 = 10            13 – 5 = 8            5 x 9 = 45            120 ÷ 10 = 12.

In school, great emphasis is put on rote memorization of “number facts.”  This emphasis is misguided.

“Numerical Fluency” is the ability to “effortlessly recall—to “know by heart.” Students should be able to tap into their reliable, quick, and knowable ways to answer “number facts” questions.

Many students in 2nd through 5th grades and higher have a limited grasp of numerical fluency. Hence, their ability to stay in the flow of new lessons is extremely limited.  This makes mathematics a frustrating and painful process for everyone involved—the kids, the teachers, and the parents!

Memorization seems to be the more understandable route initially, but it does not promote the mathematical thinking and problem solving skills that are required for long–term success in math. Eventually, most students will forget what they memorized.


I suggest that it is fairly easy to forget that which you have memorized, and nearly impossible to forget that which you have learned.


What students need to do is to build mental structures, frameworks for learning, so that they will know the basic number facts in a matter of a second.  Then they won’t have to worry about “forgetting.”

For more information on Mathnasium and our curriculum, please visit our website at Mathnasium of Southlake, call (817) 421-1900 or drop by the center at 1251 E. Southlake Blvd., Suite 305 and see how we make learning fun.  To read more on Larry's blog, please visit The Number Sense Blog.  

Today, City+School mathnasium
  • Exhibit: Seeing is a Nervous Habit

    09/22/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    A retrospective of Kenda North’s work. The exhibit will be accompanied by a group exhibition of f...


  • Texas Coin Shows in Grapevine

    09/22/2017
    02:00PM — 06:00PM

    Add to your collection at the Texas Coin Shows on Sept. 22-24 at the Convention Center, 1209 S. M...


  • Fall Forest Painting

    09/22/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    What: Fall Forest Textured Painting 10" x 10" acrylic painting including step by step instruction...


  • Maverick Home Volleyball Game

    09/22/2017
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Volleyball match being hosted at The College Park Center by the UT Arlington Mavericks Collegiate...


  • PARTY ON!

    09/22/2017
    07:00PM — 10:30PM

    Join us each Friday night for our weekly ballroom dance party! A great mix of ballroom, latin, c...


  • Stemless Wine Glass Help-Create

    09/23/2017
    10:00AM — 06:00PM

    Come and assist our glassblowers as they create your hand-blown Stemless Wine Glass, color design...


  • Exhibit: Seeing is a Nervous Habit

    09/23/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    A retrospective of Kenda North’s work. The exhibit will be accompanied by a group exhibition of f...


  • WHEELS & WARBIRDS

    09/23/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Cavanaugh Flight Museum brings the sights and sounds of history to life Saturday and Sunday, Sept...


  • SusieCakes - Fort Worth

    09/23/2017
    01:00PM — 04:00PM

    Join us to celebrate the grand opening of our SusieCakes Fort Worth location! We will have face p...


  • Fort Worth-based Trinity River Distillery, the makers of the award-winning Texas Silver Star Whis...


  • Maverick Home Volleyball Game

    09/23/2017
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Volleyball match being hosted at The College Park Center by the UT Arlington Mavericks Collegiate...


  • The Boogies

    09/23/2017
    08:00PM — 09:30PM

    WHO: The Boogies, Disco Band WHAT: MasterWorks Concert Series FREE and OPE...


  • WHEELS & WARBIRDS

    09/24/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Cavanaugh Flight Museum brings the sights and sounds of history to life Saturday and Sunday, Sept...


  • Dallas Decorators Showhouse in Southlake

    09/24/2017
    10:30AM — 05:00PM

    We are in need of volunteer tour guides for morning and afternoon shifts beginning Tuesday, Septe...


  • Exhibit: Seeing is a Nervous Habit

    09/24/2017
    01:00PM — 05:00PM

    A retrospective of Kenda North’s work. The exhibit will be accompanied by a group exhibition of f...


  • WindSync

    09/24/2017
    06:00PM — 07:00PM

    Award winning, national touring chamber ensemble with a refreshing unique style


  • Exhibit: Seeing is a Nervous Habit

    09/28/2017
    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    A retrospective of Kenda North’s work. The exhibit will be accompanied by a group exhibition of f...


  • Dallas Decorators Showhouse in Southlake

    09/28/2017
    10:30AM — 05:00PM

    We are in need of volunteer tour guides for morning and afternoon shifts beginning Tuesday, Septe...


  • SusieCakes Grand Opening Happy Hour

    09/28/2017
    03:00PM — 07:30PM

    Enjoy the grand opening of SusieCakes in Fort Worth with a week of happy hour deals! Monday 9...


  • Dragon Pride 2017 Preview Party

    09/28/2017
    05:30PM — 07:30PM

    You're invited to attend our annual Dragon Pride Preview Party! Join the free festivities as we u...


  • Mama Won't Fly

    09/28/2017
    07:00PM

    On September 28th and 30th Carroll Senior High School theatre will present the outrageously hilar...


Read This Month's Digital Issue
STAY CONNECTED
FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM