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Touch Math

Compiled By: Jennypie

Teacher opinions about TouchMath, a mulit-sensory teaching approach to help develop math skills.

Touch Math
Posted by: first grade teacher

Touch Math is a program where each student learns how to touch the numbers one through nine with their pencil. They count forward and backwards touching each number at specific points. Each number has that many touch points. The number eight has eight touch points for an example.. Today I showed the class how to subtract using touch points. They cross out the greater number, say its name and count backwards on the smaller number. To add, they cross out the greater number, say its name and count forward on the other number. To begin with touch math they must learn the touch points for each number first.

Touch Math
Posted by: Michelle

I have used Touch Math with kids from kindergarten to high school, and I love it. You have to remember a couple of things. First, it is NOT a complete program, only a supplement for one part of your curriculum. Second, it does not take the place of the manipulative work you need to do to develop basic concepts.

I make sure the student has a good understanding of the process we are learning (addition/subtraction or multiplication/division) and can solve simple word problems using manipulatives. They should also be proficient at recording their problem solving in both pictures and number sentences. Once we get to the point of needing to learn/memorize the basic facts, I teach touch points.

When you teach them, teach them to the whole class. Then, work with the small group of kids who really need them. Be very consistent and do the work together for the first 5 or 6 days. Do not let them make mistakes without immediate correction and correct practice. If you do this, you will be finished teaching very quickly and they will have a tool they can use as needed. I put touch point number lines on their desks to use with their regular work. (BTW, they should "touch" on their regular work, not the touch point sheet.)

95% of the students will use this as a tool to memorize the facts. They practice them correctly and know them much more quickly than with flashcards. They will drop the touch points when they are ready, but they can fall back on them if they forget from time to time. The other 5% are probably special needs learners who would not have memorized the facts anyway. (Some special needs learners will learn the facts, but there are some who will not.) If they simply can't memorize them, at least they have a tool that they can use independently to consistently arrive at the correct answer -- it much better than guessing and being wrong all the time!

BTW, because you will not need to spend as much time memorizing the facts, you have more time to do problem solving, geometry, etc.

Touch Math
Posted by: Mindy

As a fourth grade teacher, I have been extremely frustrated with touch math. When students who come to my room are still using it, it makes timed tests, games, etc. extremely difficult for the kids who rely on using it. I don't know if the teachers just never made the students responsible for knowing their facts orally or what, but I am finding that by fourth grade, students using touch math are by far disadvantaged over those students who have learned and memorized their basic addition & subtraction facts. Plus, there is no method of "touch" for multiplication, so there is no crutch for the new facts they must learn. They were not responsible for leaving touch math behind, and now have no reliable method for solving the problems in a timely fashion.

I really don't mean to sound like I know it all, or that touch math is not a good program. However, I would strongly caution teachers to use it sparingly, and make their students accountable for their facts. It makes 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade much easier!

touch math
Posted by: frustrated teacher

I really don't know of a better way then to memorize facts. I feel that my students come to me and do not know the basic facts and it is very frustrating. I hope that someone can tell me a way to help my students more. BUT I wish as a regular classroom teacher that the younger grades would NOT teach touch math as a primary way to learn their facts. I think that kids should know 3+2 and not have to use touch math or their fingers to figure it out. I think that touch math is good for special education but that it should be a last resort for regular education. I could be totally off base and I am sorry if I offended anyone. I know that I learned from memorizing and repetetive practices. I know that all kids learn the same but that we should allow kids to memorize first and if they can't.

Touch Math Works
Posted by: Amanda K.

I do not know about the research behind Touch Math, but I do know that it has worked very well in my class. I teach it to all my kids at the beginning of the year (first grade)... some use it, some don't. It's just another strategy for them to use if they need assistance with a problem. I have found that I prefer students to use the Touch Points (as opposed to their fingers or making lines on the paper) because, in doing so, their eyes are focused on the problem itself. This seems to help them more in memorization, since they are looking at the numbers so much when trying to find the answer. I always tell my kids, "Use the Touch Points until one day you find you know the answer without them."

Also, when we get to addition and subtraction in the teens during the last trimester, the kids who know how to use the Touch Points well seem to do much better in math than the kids who have been using their fingers or even memorizing (although, the memorization kids do better after they have had a chance to work with the problems a bit more).

Touch Math Criticisms
Posted by: Amanda K.

I, too, have heard criticisms about Touch Math. I was reluctant to use it at first because I felt that it did have the possibility of bringing kids away from a better understanding of number sense. However, having used it in my room, I feel that it can actually contribute to a better understanding of number sense. After all, counting the dots on the numbers is virtually the same thing as giving kids blocks or other manipulatives and having them count them to understand the reasoning behind math problems. It allows children to work with the actual written numbers in a semi-manipulative environment.

Touch Math, I feel, should be the intermediary step between using these manipulatives and switching to just using numbers. It's a great way to wean kids off of using the manipulatives or drawing lines on paper to solve a word problem, and getting them to switch to numbers. Of course, it should not be the basis of your entire program.

It's funny, because I have heard mathematicians and higher math educators from both sides of the issue. I think it's just one of those things that you should use if you're comfortable with it. But, the bottom line is, you use whatever works with your kids.

Touch Math
Posted by: Owen

You should not use touch math because it has a lot of serious problems. It gives students the wrong information. If you tell a child to add a dot and a circle to get a total of three you are not teaching math because you can not add dots and circles because they are different units. The company claims the circle represents a dot. Most children can not understand substitution until grade four or five, so they add dots and circles. Many government curriculum do not allow substitution until higher grades so touch math would not be allowed. They destroy the number symbol by adding to it. You can not add to symbol without perverting the meaning. If you add a circle to a zero you change the meaning from "no units" to "eight units". These are only some of the problems with touch math. There just is not time or space for me to explain how bad touch math is for the teacher, student and the school system.

Touch Math
Posted by: Sandy

I invented a touch math system for myself when I was in elementary school in the 60's. I was a straight A student throughout my school years in every subject except math because I absolutely could not memorize additon, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables. I cried and cried over this.

Today, at 42 years old, I still rely on my "touch math" system because I still cannot remember most of my tables. But because I USED my system, I was able to go onto higher math: algebra, geometry, calculus, etc., where I usually made straight A's. I was excellent at higher math. It was easy for me to understand. But I was and still am terrible at memorizing the math tables.

If I had not used touch math I would never have gone on to college because my difficulty with math made me think I was a failure in school, even though I was in the advanced classes for everything else. As soon as I developed my touch math system for myself, I was placed in advanced math classes.

I can already tell my daughter has the same problem as I had. I'm teaching her my touch math system now. My son, on the other hand, has no problem with the math tables, so I plan not to teach him touch math so he will learn to memorize the tables.

Personally, I think it is a terrible disservice to those children who have a difficult time with the math tables NOT to teach them touch math. I think that once a teacher realizes she/he has one of these students, the teacher should be allowed to teach that student touch math.

Touch Math
Posted by: sp.ed.

The Touch Math program has a good idea to teach and reinforce counting by 5's to count money. Students learn to "tap" or touch once for nickels, twice for the value of a dime, and five times for the value of a quarter. There are visual cues (one dot on the nickel, two dots for the dime and five dots for the quarter), auditory cues and tactile/kinesthetic cues.

You might be able to make your own chart.

For the nickel there is one dark dot in the center of the nickel.

For the dime there are two dots, one centered just above and one just below the dime but still touching the dime.

For the quarter place the dots in this design superimposed on top of the quarter:

* *


* *

Students can also advance to counting mixed coins using this technique. For pennies they need to learn to stop counting by 5's and just add one more.

Touch Math
Posted by: Elizabeth

I've found Touch Math to be a great tool for many first graders for addition and subtraction. Our third grade teachers use it in third grade for multiplication, too. In first we start out the year just touch and counting the points together and when we've learned that I introduce how to use them to count on. By the time we are into subtraction they are very familar with the points and usually have them memorized so using them to count back is not difficult at all. I also teach the concept with unifix cubes, number line, and making a fist say the larger # & count back the smaller while putting up one finger for each # said until you have the # of fingers you needed. Once we've learned all the ways they may chose what works best for them. Usually there is a way that helps each student best since there are so many choices.

touch math
Posted by: linda

I do not know about the research, but I do know touch math as helped many of my students...It is a great tool that kiddos can use...and because it only uses the numbers in a specific problem...everything is there that the students needs to work the problem. Touch math was recommend by our special ed dept. I have found it to help all students that need a little extra help in computation.

math facts should not be a nightmare
Posted by: first grade teacher

After having suffered as a child who never had "many stars on the chart" I vowed as a teacher not to let instant recall of facts be an unpleasant issue in the classroom. I was introduced to touch math, as a beginning teacher, by a special education teacher. I can say, without a doubt, that it works for every student no matter the learning "style" or level of parental support. It takes the stress off of the child and the parents and allows for accuracy. Counting on the fingers, while tactile and slow, is not accurate. Touch Math does teach a great method for knowing the multiplication facts as well. Touch math allows every student to move beyond fact knowledge and into the realm of real math applications. My first grade students learned the touch points in one week and do not count on their fingers at all.

Touch math
Posted by: Debbie

Touch math as with any 'program' is useful for some learners...the way to transition to fact memorization is to be sure children have lots of practice at the concrete and connecting stages of mathematics. TERC Investigations has some great games to help with acquisition of math facts. Once these have been taught, they can go in a center or taken home for homework, the kids love them.

touch math caution
Posted by: jessica/3/MO

I am writing this from my own learning perspective and not a teaching one. I went through elementary school learning the touch math system...Please teach other strategies too. Not that this system is bad in fact it is very sucessful however, I as an adult still use the dots because that was the way I learned. I think children become very reliant on the dots and don't memorize the facts. I would reserve this system for special education students or those with extreme difficulty with memorization of facts. Just my humble opinion and experience.


touch math
Posted by: Christine

I also use touch math in a regular ed. class. It is only one of many strategies I use. The children love it and it really seems to help struggling students. Most students use it for a short while and are then able to wean themselves from using it naturally. Most are able to just imagine the dots, without actually having to draw them. I see no reason not to use it. Maybe your principal is just not aware of its advantages. Good luck!

touch math
Posted by: Christine

I agree with Andrea. It's just another tool for kids and I have found it to be very helpful for some. Especially because it encourages starting w/ the larger number and counting on. After awhile students don't even need to make the dots, but visualize them. It is especially helpful for children having difficulty. The act of circling the bigger # and then adding on gets them going. I say try it, but encourage and challenge students to drop it when it is no longer needed.

Touch Math
Posted by: Shirley

I have used this program for years and love it!! For very young students we start out using manipulatives that we put on the numbers. Then, as we learn them we switch to just the points. Before long, the students are not even putting the points on.
One caution---I am not sure this is appropriate for all students. I use it with special education students having difficulty just memorizing facts.