Fingers to count on & count back!
All children count on fingers to start, and yes, you do want children to ‘visualise’ the number and work in their heads, but fingers are useful and used by many adults.
We have all laughed at the child ‘ who has run out of fingers’ when working above 10. I was working with Year 2 and 3 mixed and asking children how they would do 12 – 7. I was trying to assess the children who could ‘count on’ to complete a subtraction. (This was long before compulsory assessment!)
That evening, I asked my son who was 6 the same question. He ran off without answer. About 1 hour later he returned and said ‘Now I can do it!’. He placed card hand on the table and then worked it out. Thus in the set Heads and Hands, the hands can be used for bonds up to 20. If the sum is 18 take away 6, the children can put the card hands down, and eight of their own fingers and easily take the 6 away. This concrete view then helps children to see that you can just subtract the units and leave the ten in tact.
Did you know that Asian children are taught to count 3 on each finger? If you look at your hands and bend the fingers you can count the lines where the fingers bend. They also count 4 by touching the top of the finger.