Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to eliminate finger counting?

Replace it with automaticity.

I know a teacher who told me that when she started teaching math, she was still counting on her fingers.  It was hard to believe, but she told me that she was very, very fast, and she really didn’t have to move her fingers, just apply a slight pressure to whatever they were touching.  What caused her to stop finger counting?  As she was teaching, she became so familiar with the facts that she attained automatic recall – she no longer needed to count.

That is the approach that I think works the best.  So how to achieve fluency, when a student is relying on their fingers?  Math fact practice should:

1)    Only include 1 or 2 facts where their response is not automatic.  Obviously, if they still have to count, they aren't automatic, but if they pause to think about the answer, it still isn't automatic.  (they may need to practice with a lot of  0’s)
2)    Distinguish between facts they counted on, and facts they had memorized.

If you are practicing with your student, you can see if they are finger counting. (unless they are like my friendJ)  But you will just have to use your own judgment on how long a pause can be and still count as automatic.  (Good luck with that.)  Make a pile of flashcards that they are automatic on, and add in the smallest fact that they aren’t.  If they are successful with it, add another, but don’t add a third until you are confident that they have the first one automatic.

When it comes to computer programs, however, the software needs to treat each student independently.  Like you, I’ve had speedy students who can count on their fingers faster than slower students can automatically recall the answer from memory.  The program needs to know the difference.  3 Seconds seems to be the industry standard, but that’s sort of like No Child Left Beyond 3 Seconds.  Not everybody is the same.

Likewise, it needs to treat each fact independently, not on an average.  If they are really fast on 38 facts but really slow on 2 facts, they can still get 40 facts correct in 2 minutes and average 3 seconds per fact, but have two facts that they are not fluent in.  (Of course, they may be able to finger count in 3 seconds, but I digress.)

Software that does this?  Fastt Math $9,000+
Math Facts Pro $1/student  (no bias here:)

No comments:

Post a Comment