Q&A #17459

Teachers' Lounge Discussion: Who "invented" touch point math?

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From: To Michelle

To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2008021318:15:51
Subject: Re: Re: The Potential Dangers of Teaching Touch Math

To Michelle:

  Dear Michelle:

      You said that you were taught touch points in the first grade
and continued to use them throughout your school years and
found it very helpful.

    First let me congradulate you on your ability to do well
in math even though you were taught touch math.
The fact that you used touch points throughout your school years
is exactly what Angela Andrews was talking about. 
People have a hard time moving on from the counting points and 
then they pass it on because that is what they know.   

    You ask Angela Andrews if she used the touch point method
or if she was basing her research on theories. If you took the time to
read her post she
explained that she is a pre-service university instructor of
math methods and observe the crippling effects of Touch Math™
on students (first hand)each term as they try to break this
tiresome habit and, at the same time,develop the missing
number sense they know they need to teach mathematics themselves.  

   Angela Andrews is not the only one that has had this experince with
possible negative effects of touch math on students abiltiy to
understand math.  If you took the time to read the other post
there is another system called "Dotmath for kids" from 1966 to
1994 that had dots on top of the number symbol.
This was many, many years before touch math was around.
 From 1966 to 1994 the same problems were discovered in the first
virson of dotmath because the dots were on top of the number.
In 1994 the new version of "Dotmath for kids" has been fixed
so there are no negative side effects.  The Dots are not on
top of the number but are around it on an overlay in a dice

    Please take the time to to read all the posts and then
go to the "Dotmath for Kids" web site and do some research. 
You were correct when you said there are other ways to teach
other math concepts in the classroom so it would be important 
for you to know them - and "Dotmath for kids" is one of them. 
If you type "dotmath for kids" into the google search box you
will find the site.  

     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
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 can't 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!

From: Laney <slocket@aol.com> 
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2006010320:10:10
Subject:  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 their minds, I am much slower
because I have done touch math so long that that is how I have to do
it.    Counting money or even dice is embarrassing. Now I am trying
 to take the initiative to relearn a quicker method. 

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

     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 any 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 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 work mat
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 representation, 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 subtracting, before third grade. I thought speed 
would just happen. But they were still counting 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 touch math counters distributed arbitrarily yet rigidly
imbedded into the number. 

From: Lisa <lehnegil@yahoo.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2003040123:27:31
Subject: Re: math touch point system 

     I am a special-ed teacher(elementary)and a parent of a 17
year son, Abe, who has Down syndrome. Twenty years ago I worked in a
group home and attempted to teach money skills to adult women with
mental retardation. Teaching money skills has been on my mind for many
years! I found you because I am looking for some ideas I can embrace
about teaching money. I have been a long time follower of Lou Brown, U
of Wisc., who often says "Don't waste my kid's time!" Abe will learn
fewer things than most of the population so the things he is taught
must be the most important things in his life! 
     Counting coins is quite difficult, teaching Abe to count
coins And make change would take an enormous amount of time,
time which could be better used, on top of that - he may never
be successful -heck - Abe NEVER will be successful - at 17 he
still can't count by 5s! So..."Don't waste his time!!"
I believe firmly in the "Plus-One theory" or "One more" for Abe.
Functional, functional, functional!
unfortunately I have never gotten any of Abe's teachers to buy 
into the idea. As a sophomore at the regular high school, Abe's math
continues to consist of asking him how much change would he get back
if...yada,yada.  I do not care for the touch math point system. I
believe it is even  a further abstraction to students with less than
average math intelligence. I also believe it is functionally

   You said the students would not be deprived if other
 strategies are use as well as the touch math.   You are not
allowed to mix "DotMath for Kids" and touch math.  These are the rules
of the site and the copyright law.  You must choose between them. 
Also when you mix multiple systems they can be too much
information too fast and you can confuse the child.

   If you read Angela Andrews post again you will see that
she has a heading called:  "Can’t I teach Touch Math™ along with other
   She points out:
Can’t I teach Touch Math™ along with other strategies? 
With Touch Math™, the foundational concepts of addition, subtraction,
multiplication or division are ignored. The method ignores the
student’s need to: 
•	Develop a visual image of how sets are joined and separated.
•	Develop non-counting strategies for adding and subtracting, such as
partitioning, using doubles, using the commutative principle, etc.
•	Develop strategies for doing mental mathematics. (Without visible
“touch points” children trained in this system have few options for
solving mental problems.)    
•	Develop the concept of multiplication as repeated addition or as an
array of objects.
•	Understand both the subtractive and partitive concepts of division. 
•	Understand the relationship of numbers as defined by our base ten
place value system.   This technique bases computation on arbitrary
rules rather than on the foundations of the base ten number system. In
fact, the authors of Touch Math™ state that they have no intention to
teach place value, which should, they say, be taught only after
students master computation skills.  In reality, by the time students
master the increasingly complex Touch Math™ rules, they have little
patience for learning to understand place value.
•	Think about numerals as representations of quantity.  The number 38,
for example is not thought of as “almost 40”, which would be helpful
for estimating an answer, or as 3 tens and 8, which would be helpful
for understanding place value concepts.  Instead 38 is thought of as
an 8 which requires 8 taps and a 3 which required 3 taps.

  I hope you take the time to do the research.  You said that you were
going to be a teacher and plan on teaching TM.  If you want to be the 
best teacher you can be -I recommend that you look at as many systems
as you can.  There are a lot of math sites recommended on the
 "dotmath for kids" web site that do not conflict with the "DotMath"

See posts:

From: Angela G. Andrews <angela.andrews@nl.edu>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2007092615:47:36
Subject: The Potential Dangers of Teaching Touch Math

From: owen <owenbprince@hotmail.com>
To: Teacher2Teacher Public Discussion
Date: 2007092621:59:37
Subject: Re: The Potential Dangers of Teaching Touch Math

I hope this info is helpful in your research on what to teach

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