Q&A #164

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Kindergarten math

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From: OP

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2006073116:49:47
Subject: Re: Kindergarten Math-Great Technique

I think you should look at the comments by the people who have come to
this site looking for help to "recover from touch math"  before you
jump in with both feet.   There are long term effects that you may not
want to risk.  You should at least know about them before you make a
final choice.

From: Carrie Hubbard <justin_and_carrie@hotmail.com>
 To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
 Date: 2003022017:13:45 Subject:
 Re: eventual mastery Lisa! I am so glad you asked that question. I am
a senior in elementary Ed and preparing to do my student teaching in
the fall. There are NO studies done to date on touch point math and my
class just had a discussion on the negative effects of touch point
math. I was taught addition and subtraction by touch point in my first
grade class. Now as a 21-year-old college senior I still canít bring
myself to add 7+3 without using touch points. Many students in my
college class have the same problems as I do. I would not suggest to
any teacher to start using touch point mathematics because it is
harmful to the children, because they will be doing touch points for
the rest of their lives. I wish I would have learned addition and
subtraction from memorization and now touch points are so ground into
my thinking process I can no longer unlearn it. If you ever find any
studies please let me know. Thank you!
 Carrie Hubbard justin_and_carrie@hotmail.com 

From: Laney <slocket@aol.com> 
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
 Date: 2006010320:10:10 Subject:
 Re: Re: Problems with touch point math I probably won't be back on
this website because I lose track of posts, but since I came across
this discussion looking for others having my problem I thought I'd add
my fifty cents. I am a senior psych major in A&M, pretty average and
maybe above in some areas of education, but there is one place where I
still feel incompetent. . . math. I was taught touch math in second
grade and I thought it was awesome at the time, but now when my peers
and younger kids are quickly doing math problems in thier minds, I am
much slower because I have done touch math so long that that is how I
have to do it in my head. Counting money or even dice is embarrassing.
Now I am trying to take the innitiative to relearn a quicker method. 

From: Bonnie <bsova0305@sbcglobal.net>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2006041722:07:57
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Problems with touch point math

My third grade daughter has the same problem as the girl above because
she learned TOUCH MATH in 1st grade.  I wish like anything that she
hadn't, because she was tested for Math three days ago and was told in
a timed part of the test, she was at the 1-2 grade level.  She's at
the end of her third grade year!  I wish she was never taught TOUCH
MATH.  It may help the teacher, it may help the child for a time but
then they're stuck on it.  And she looks at a problem like 6+7 and has
to stare at it for several seconds before she can tell me the answer. 
It was refreshing to see someone else with our problem, that we're not
the only ones.  If you're reading this message and you're a teacher
like myself, don't even consider TOUCH MATH in your school's
curriculum.  It's wrong and it stunts children's true abilities.

B. Sova

From: Mike <mike@cybercal.net> 
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
 Date: 2003032718:32:02 Subject:
 Major Problems With "Touch-Math" System I am interested in learning
how others have been affected, negatively, by the touch-math system. I
am a 23 year old that was taught the "touch-math" system back in the
early 1980's when I was in first grade. Mind you, this was not a
special education class, but a regular class for
"developmentally-well" students. After the first grade, my family
relocated to another state, and my new school didn't teach the system.
The students at my new school had learned math the "real way"
(memorization, tables, numerical concepts, etc.), prior to my coming,
but I was far behind them. For some reason I was stuck in the "touch
math" mode, as it was somehow burned into my brain. As far as I knew,
that was the only way to do math. I only learned later that the other
students weren't mentally using touch math like myself! I had severe
problems with the concept of math for the rest of my elementary and
high school career. In elementary, I had severe problems with
multiplication, fractions, and even with the concept of time. In Jr.
high, I was even placed in the learning disabilities class for a short
while- but only for math. I was finally able to "retrain" my brain,
somewhat, and returned to regular math classes by the time I started
of high school. But then, I barely even squeaked through my math
classes in high school and college- it must have been a miracle of
God. Ashamedly, to this day, I continue to have severe struggles with
math. I am just now learning to add and subtract without imagining the
"touch points" on all of the numbers. Because I had so many problems
with even basic match, my ability to perform algebraic and geometric
problems never really developed. I get by totally fine in life because
my career as a minister and youth counselor doesn't require
much-advanced math like algebra and calculus (how many careers out
there really require those, anyway?). While I am an otherwise
intelligent young man when it comes to other subjects, I have lagged
far behind all of my life in math. This is a shameful secret that I
hide and keep to myself. For some reason, none of my educators caught
on or attempted to investigate what my problem was; they just thought
that I was an extremely poor student in math. Just a couple of years
ago, I began to question whether or not the touch-math system had
caused me to have the problems that I do. After much research, I am
now convinced that it was my problem all along, as it prevented me
 from developing a true concept of mathematics. Considering that I
passed all other subjects without problems throughout my entire
school/college careers, there should be no other rhyme or reason for
me to have done so poorly in this one single area. The problem may
have started when I changed schools- perhaps my first school had
planned on teaching us "real math" the next year by integrating it
with, and weaning us off of "touch math". Who knows? But my new
school's system was so drastically different (real), that I was never
able to make the transition. As far as I know, my new school had never
even heard of touch math, so they had no way of correcting me.

 I would advise all parents to ensure that their children learn math
the "right way", and spare them the problems that I have had all of my
life. I am interested in hearing from others! Good Luck, Mike 

From: C Wells <ccwells@netcom.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2004121617:46:21
Subject: Re: Major Problems With
My daughter is now 12 and was taught touch points as well.  She wasn't
developmentally challenged.  All of the kids learned the same method.

She continues to struggle with addition.  She actually multiplies
better than adds.  We have no idea how to retrain her!  It's an
on-going problem.

Touch points should go the way of a failed experiment.  Like the
movement away from phonics, it has been a dismal failure.

From: M McGinnis <niallmcginnis@mac.com>
 To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion 
Date: 2005040614:57:53
 Subject: Touch Math
 I just read your message about touch math from a couple of years ago,
when I began to research the subject. My child was just placed in
first grade at age 5, following an assessment for what would have been
kindergarten in the fall. So this was an acceleration of almost two
grades. Last night my child brought home a math paper: touch math. She
explained it to me, then proceeded to complete the page of two-column
subtraction problems. A few were wrong. Problems that were easy for
her just a month ago. It was so obvious that she had lost track of the
actual values in the problem. For example, when she subtracted 8 from
18, she got it wrong. Never before a problem with understanding the
base ten concept. Now she was very focused on those little dots. So,
thank you, for sharing your testimonial. I plan to look into it
further, and, very likely ask my school board the following questions:
How does a child transition from these dots to normal computation with
real numbers? Who sold us this idea, and why? Have there been QA
studies to confirm that it delivers positive outcomes? Sorry you had
to deal with it.

 My older child is currently trying to unlearn another fashionable
math program, "Chicago Math".
 Sincerely, M McGinnis 

From: Becky C <mrtlnp@comcast.net>
 To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion 
Date: 2005072211:25:36 
Subject: Recovering from Touchmath 
My twin boys came home halfway through third grade and they were still
using the Touchmath method to calculate answers to addition and
subtraction problems with very small numbers. Like 4 + 3. Which was
not the right place for them to be when it was time to move on to
multiplication. For it to make sense that 24 + 3 = 27 when
skip-counting 3's, a child needs to know without counting that 4 + 3 =
7. It was as weird for my boys to consider that they should "see" or
"sense" how true it was that 4 + 3 = 7, as if I had asked them to
consider that dog + cat = lollipop. We had little choice except to
have them memorize the times tables by rote, to qualify for the ice
cream sundae party at the end of the school year. The boys' first
grade teacher taught them Touchmath. My husband recognized it from
when he was a kid, and I didn't like the looks of it, literally, but I
thought it would turn out to be a harmless way station. I expected
that with lots of practice in addition and subtraction the boys would
naturally migrate to more efficient methods, e.g. counting on from the
higher number. That with lots of practice, they would know when they
saw 3 + 4, that it is 7 without further thought. But with Touchmath,
the children are taught to visualize each numeral as having a specific
number of points that are touched, one by one, as the child counts up
the total, going from one numeral to the next in an addition sentence.
The number three is the most obvious numeral to "point", but the rest
of the numerals 1 through 9 are pointed in a way that is not robust.
Touchmath is like having counters embedded in the printed numeral on
the page, that can never be broken apart and put back together. My
boys mastered this method of seeing numerals as collections of points
very quickly, but they didn't move on from it. It's a very quiet
method of counting by ones, much less obvious than if your child is
still counting on their fingers. But every addition and subtraction
sentence they ever saw for the last three years looked just like a
workmat with counters fixed on it. These counters, arranged as they
are along the stems of numerals, don't lend themselves to any sense of
distance or length or dimension. Unlike fingers which can line up in a
ragged row, or loose counters which can be set shoulder to shoulder in
a line. Last December when I figured out there was a problem, I
quizzed my boys really carefully. I asked them, "Do you ever see 3 + 4
as a length? As stacking 4 blocks on top of 3 blocks? As climbing 3
steps up a ladder and then climbing 4 more steps? As moving 4 inches
beyond 3 inches?" And the answers were no; no; no; and never. In
kindergarten, first, second, and third grade, they successfully
participated in mathematics units on data represention, and on
measurement. They had successfully created bar graphs with data and
answered questions correctly using the graphs. They had successfully
measured objects using many measures -- paper clips, crayons, a ruler.
But these and many other experiences of dimension were not informing
their practice of addition and subtraction. They had never been
assessed for speed in adding and subracting, before third grade. I
thought speed would just happen. But they were still touching points
in third grade. This summer, our math boot camp is all about dimension
in whole number operations. Visualizing linear distances. I am
preaching the gospel of Part-Part-Whole, and we're studying one whole
number at a time. I want them to start fourth grade knowing by heart
that 3 + 4 belongs to 7, and it will never belong to 6, and it will
never belong to 8. They are learning that 7 - 4 gives the same
information as 3 + 4 and 4 + 3 and 7 - 3. We are playing Go Fish and
War and Memory with whole-number fact families on playing cards I
created. We are using Legos as our manipulatives. I also made up
numeral-free, mathematically-true, base-ten-friendly distance
flashcards that illustrate addition and subtraction. The boys now can
illustrate their own addition and subtraction sentences. No more
pointile counters distributed arbitrarily yet rigidly in space. 

You have another option called DotMath for kids.


  The first version of DotMath I made was in 1966.  I put a dot
pattern on top of the number symbols.   It took me many years to
recover from that mistake.   I figured out that you can not put
anything on a symbol with out destroying it as a universal symbol.  I
knew that the dots were not part of the number symbol but the children
I taught it to saw the dots and the number as one symbol and could not
sepearte them after they had learned it that way.   When I realized
this problem I stopped doing that and made new versions that have the
dots off the number symbol.  The dot patterns now are similar to dice
so you can teach dice patterns first.   After the students learn the
dice patterns you can have them learn DotMath. There are no negitive
side affects with Dotmath because it only has dots and they are off
the number symbol.

  You may copy and use The Fun Book for free from the web site for
personal use only.  It shows how to place the dots around the number
symbol (not on the number).  You must agree with the site rules and
the copyright law to copy from the web site.  That means if you copy
 from the site then you have agreed to the rules of the site and to
obey the copyright law.


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