Children in the US are being banned from using their fingers to count at school.
“Schools across the country regularly ban finger use in classrooms or communicate to students that they are babyish,” says Jo Boaler in The Atlantic.
Parents have taken to social media to argue that their children should be allowed to finger count.
“It broke my heart when my daughter who struggles with math was told by her teacher, she couldn’t use her fingers,” said Monica Lannon on Facebook.
Father Alex Wood posted: “My son’s 3rd grade math teacher wouldn’t let him pass his times tables because he used his fingers. I don’t get it. Not everyone has photographic memory and some struggle to memorise at all.”
“I have always and still use my fingers to count, and I will always encourage my children to do the same if it’s easier for them, despite the crazy ways they are being taught in the classroom. Everyone learns differently, ” another parent, Kimberly Seaver, added.
Although finger counting is discouraged in maths classes in the US, it could lead to advanced thinking in mathematics.
Finger representation and finger-based strategies “play an important role in learning and understanding arithmetic”, a recent study found.
Researchers studied the area of the brain that is linked with finger counting and visual representations of numbers, the “somatosensory finger area”.
Forty children between eight and 13-years-old performed subtraction and a multiplication tasks while in a fMRI scanner – then that area of the brain lit up, even when they were given more complex maths problems.
The somatosensory finger area was active even when the children weren’t using their fingers. It’s the first evidence that the area has a functional role in more advanced mathematics.
Researchers Ilaria Berteletti and James R. Boot concluded that educational practices should “encourage the use of fingers”.
“These results also encourage educational practices to focus on finger discrimination as a precursor of numerical and arithmetical skill.”
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