Many children with cortical visual impairment (CVI), struggle with math concepts. In turn, teachers struggle with how to make these concepts accessible to their students with CVI. This article in The Atlantic, Why Kids Should Use Their Fingers in Math Class, on math, and how math plays out in the brain, helps paint a picture of why students with CVI may be struggling.
Here are some highlights:
“Brain researchers know that we ‘see’ a representation of our fingers in our brains, even when we do not use fingers in a calculation.”
“If students aren’t learning about numbers through thinking about their fingers, numbers ‘will never have a normal representation in the brain.'”
“Stopping students from using their fingers when they count could, according to the new brain research, be akin to halting their mathematical development. Fingers are probably one of our most useful visual aids, and the finger area of our brain is used well into adulthood. The need for and importance of finger perception could even be the reason that pianists, and other musicians, often display higher mathematical understanding than people who don’t learn a musical instrument.”
“When we work on math, in particular, brain activity is distributed among many different networks, which include areas within the ventral and dorsal pathways, both of which are visual. Neuroimaging has shown that even when people work on a number calculation, such as 12 x 25, with symbolic digits (12 and 25) our mathematical thinking is grounded in visual processing.”
“Everyone uses visual pathways when we work on math. The problem is it has been presented, for decades, as a subject of numbers and symbols, ignoring the potential of visual math for transforming students’ math experiences and developing important brain pathways.”
From Why Kids Should Use Their Fingers in Math Class. Evidence from brain science suggests that far from being “babyish,” the technique is essential for mathematical achievement.