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Touch math June 10, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, math, teaching, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,

I have another rant about elementary math education, but this one is slightly different.

I am completely appalled that schools still do not teach touch math.

You probably have no idea what I’m talking about because you’ve probably never heard of it.

When I was in fourth grade, we moved to a town in rural North Dakota called New Salem.  At the time, the population was 2000.  Now it’s half that.  If you’ve ever driven through North Dakota and seen the world’s largest Holstein cow on the side of a hill, you’ve seen New Salem.  (The cow, by the way, is named Salem Sue.)

Shortly after we moved there, I was sent to get some extra help in math.  In fourth grade, I was still counting on my fingers.  Some people term that a math disability now.  However, the way this rural school saw it, there was an easy fix.  I was sent to the special ed teacher for two one-hour sessions.  I was, of course, feeling very ashamed about my finger counting.  She said that it’s not unusual and that she had a way to fix it.  She pulled out a piece of paper with an image that looked something like this (only, back then, it was black and white because I grew up in the days before they invented color):

So what the heck is this?

It’s a way of computing addition and subtraction facts.

The dots are places where you touch the number, and the dots with rings around them are places where you touch the number twice.  You’ll notice that seven has a single touch and three double touches.  Basically, when a child is sitting there with a math problem in front of them, they can touch the number in the designated places, and count those touches rather than their fingers.

As I got the hang of this (which was very quickly), I started being able to see the points and make computations without touching the numbers.  I started developing some visual strategies for calculations.  Eventually, with practice, I ended up memorizing my math facts.  I’ve written before about how math facts are better memorized through practice than rote.  I think this would be another great method for teaching facts, as it obviously worked for me.  In fact, you can look at the Touch Math website and see that there’s a decent amount of research showing that the strategy works well both for average children as well as those with learning disabilities.

So why isn’t it being used?  I’m still surprised that teachers in a small rural school district were thinking so far ahead.  I’m not sure why larger schools have not followed suit in the past 30 years, and it’s really unfortunate that so many people have not heard of it.



1. owen - November 22, 2011

There is also research that can show how bad touch math is for you. It was developed by a teacher who did not know much about math. A circle has always been a group and the dot is the counter. My research from 1966 proved to me that it is very bad to put dots on top of the number. This was for students who were not expected to progress beyond addition and subtration. When taught to very young children the dots get bonded to the number symbol. This makes it very difficult to learn math because many get stuck counting by one.

The DotMath for kids system has dice dots that are not bonded to the number symbol. They are taught by association. The dice dots are converted into numbers and then into calculator keys. This speeds up the students instead of slowing them down. You may want to look into the DotMath for kids system to help you understand math that can be used in higher grades.


2. Owen - December 15, 2012

known as Cognitive Instruction in Mathematical Modeling or CIMM
By : Dr. Rob MacDuff: has a system to help students learn math with groups and dots. This is the very best way to understand math and is being used to help high school students with very difficult math concepts. This has only been around since 1995 and is not very well known. He is an expert in math and is working with the school system to help implement the CIMM program. I have read all of the material they have on the internet. I believe The CIMM system is best system I have ever found because it helps in grade one and in high school math. I recommend this system over all other systems for this reason. I do not work for them but I do have a math system of my own that I have worked on for many years so I have a good understanding of math.

Owen Prince


3. nicoleandmaggie - December 22, 2012

We did a unit on disabilities in 4th grade and the special education teacher gave this example as one of the things they use to help students with dyscalculia.


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