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Finger fooled

"Finger Maths" (TES, January 10) states how effective fingers could be as "calculators". But the author overlooks some necessary ground-rules that children need to understand before "finger play" can be used in such a sophisticated, abstract way.

For example, not all four and five-year-olds can recognise the number symbols to 10, so to draw a number on one finger can be at least confusing and at worst the beginning of the "maths blockage", which is still acknowledged by many adults.

Of course, we as teachers understand that when holding up, say, seven fingers, the last one indicates the total number in that set. Children are just as likely to raise only one finger and become confused because it is labelled "seven".

As for time allowed, the author suggests "little and often - 15 to 20 minutes a day". Allowing for the attention span of many young infants, five minutes before play and five minutes at "home time" would be more realistic.

Finally, "chanting" as a class is hardly likely to reinforce the basic numerical concepts, such as ordering or conservation of number. The end-result of mindless chanting is that many children "know the tune" but few know the words.

DR JULIA MATTHEWS

50 Sydney Road Bexleyheath Kent

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