How a brain says: Fingermath for Empowering Children’s Creativity

Wanda Nugroho Yanuarto


Children typically learn basic numerical and arithmetic principles using finger-based representations. However, whether or not reliance on finger-based representations is beneficial or detrimental is the subject of an ongoing debate between researchers in neurocognition and mathematics education. From the neurocognitive perspective, finger counting provides multisensory input, which conveys both cardinal and ordinal aspects of numbers. Recent data indicate that children with good finger-based numerical representations show better arithmetic skills and that training finger gnosis, or “finger sense,” enhances mathematical skills. Therefore neurocognitive researchers conclude that elaborate finger-based numerical representations are beneficial for later numerical development. However, research in mathematics education recommends fostering mentally based numerical representations so as to induce children to abandon finger counting. More precisely, mathematics education recommends first using finger counting, then concrete structured representations and, finally, mental representations of numbers to perform numerical operations. Taken together, these results reveal an important debate between neurocognitive and mathematics education research concerning the benefits and detriments of finger-based strategies for numerical development. In the present review, the rationale of both lines of evidence will be discussed.


fingermath, neurocognitive, mathematics education

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