Thursday, January 24, 2013

Touch Math -Stop the Finger Counting Insanity!

My first year of teaching, I had a handful of fifth graders that just could not get simple addition or subtraction.  It was very frustrating! Sadly for them I did not learn about Touch Math till my second teaching position, but since that time I have never encountered a student that I could not teach addition or subtraction to again.
When to start Touch Math? I believe as soon as your child is learning numbers.  Touch Math is simple, you are simply adding touch points to numbers 1-9.

For little ones:
Use fun stickers or pictures as your Touch Points.  You can raise the dots using puffy paint, sand paper, or pom poms.  I like to start with numbers 1-5 until the children are older and proficient.  Also start slowly so there is success. I always like to include the child's favorite theme, so for Cole it was trucks and stuff and for Cecily well you can see....

For those a little older:
  Now if you already taught your child the touch points, then great! They will be ready to add very early.  Addition can be taught in stages and depending on the learner will determine how quickly you move through those stages.   That is the beauty of this program, that you can easily differentiate to meet the various needs of each student. 
Let's start from the very basic though:

  • You present the students with the addition problems with the touch points on both numbers and the children simply add them up by counting touch points.
  • Once they get the hang of that, I move the children on to problems where the lesser addend has touch points, but the greater addend does not.  Children then need to be able to tap that greater addend and count on using the lesser addend's touch points.
  • Lastly, this is where I have Cole, he sees the problem and without provided touch points can solve it on his on, simply by finding the greater addend, saying it's value and tapping on the lesser addend.
How about that? It is like having manipulatives without having to have the manipulatives.  

Subtraction works in a similar fashion:

  • Make sure your child can count backwards.  I call this rocket ship counting.  Practice with a given number and then counting back from that number.
  • You begin by having a single digit subtraction problem and I won't confuse anyone using the formal language like minuend.  The problem will have touch points on the lesser number.  Say the top number then touch those points and count backwards.  
  • Take away the touch points once your child is proficient and they will simply solve by touching those imaginary places on that lesser number to solve the subtraction problem.  

If you are saying I want more.. Well Touch Math has a comprehensive curriculum that I find to flow and build wonderfully from concept to concept.  Touch Money was very helpful in helping some of my students learn how to count change by using touch  points that count by 5's. 
Touch Math offers some great samples that you can use at home for free.   If you are a teacher, I highly recommend the free training offered, but parents can also get in on purchasing enough materials to really make a difference at home.  There are set of downloadable worksheets that you can purchase through the Touch Math program

Even if you have a third or fourth grader who is already stuck on using their fingers, I highly recommend that you introduce them to Touch Math.  I promise that a quick twenty minutes will make a huge difference.


  1. My sons' school uses touch math and I notice my son sometimes touching them with his pencil tip when doing math in second grade. Really works well for him. I don't think my kindergartner has been taught it at school yet.

  2. When I was in HS, they started teaching something that was an oriental form of finger counting called Chisenbop (sp) ... where your Rt hand fingers were single were single digits, thumbs were 10's and Lt hand was 100's. Very fast and easy- although I have forgotten it because I don't use it. I will find the paperwork and show you. Interesting.

    I will share this technique with my grandkids, this looks easy and very helpful.