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Children with higher working memory are more inclined to finger count

12 March 2018

Finger counting by young kids has traditionally been frowned upon because it’s seen as babyish and a deterrent to using mental calculations.

However, a new Swiss study in the Journal of Cognitive Psychology has found that six-year-olds who finger counted performed better at simple addition, especially if they used an efficient finger counting strategy.

What’s more, it was the children with higher working memory ability – who you would expect to have less need for using their fingers – were more inclined to finger count, and to do so in an efficient way.

“Our study advocates for the promotion of finger use in arithmetic tasks during the first years of schooling,” said the researchers Justine Dupont-Boime and Catherine Thevenot at the Universities of Geneva and Lausanne.

The 84 child volunteers were recruited from six different Swiss schools where the policy is not to teach finger counting explicitly, but not to discourage it either (except for very simple additions where the sum is less than 10).


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