It’s a tried and tested method for counting, and now research has found that using fingers can help young children with their maths.
A study in the United Kingdom suggests that playing finger games — such as holding up a certain number of fingers — alongside number games like dominoes boosts youngsters’ results in counting and simple arithmetic.
Researchers said the findings could be useful for teachers in developing children’s understanding of numbers.
The study of 137 children aged six and seven, saw pupils divided into five groups.
One was given finger training exercises and another played number games. Two other groups did both finger training and number exercises and the fifth was a control group that was given its usual maths lesson.
The finger training games included numbering fingers from one to five and matching them with a finger on the other hand and tracing coloured lines with a particular finger, while the number games included dominoes, playing with dice and snakes and ladders.
Researchers found the two groups that did both types of games (finger and number) did about twice as well in tests after the experiment as the other groups.
Overall, these groups saw their results — in basic number skills including adding and subtracting — go up by about 20 points, while the other three groups combined saw results go up by about nine points.
‘‘This study provides evidence that fingers provide children with a ‘bridge’ between different representations of numbers, which can be verbal, written or symbolic,’’ study author Tim Jay said.
‘‘Combined finger training and number games could be a useful tool for teachers to support children’s understanding of numbers.
‘‘Research is showing that fingers are an important part of children’s thinking and learning,’’ Prof Jay said.