Enhancing mathematics learning through finger-counting: A study investigating tactile strategies in 2 visually impaired cases

Appl Neuropsychol Child. 2024 Jul-Sep;13(3):269-281. doi: 10.1080/21622965.2024.2333832. Epub 2024 Apr 3.


Finger-counting plays a crucial role in grounding and establishing mathematics, one of the most abstract domains of human cognition. While the combination of visual and proprioceptive information enables the coordination of finger movements, it was recently suggested that the emergence of finger-counting primarily relies on visual cues. In this study, we aimed to directly test this assumption by examining whether explicit finger-counting training (through tactile stimulation) may assist visually impaired children in overcoming their difficulties in learning mathematics. Two visually impaired participants (2 boys of 8.5 and 7.5 years) were therefore trained to use their fingers to calculate. Their pre- and post-training performance were compared to two control groups of sighted children who underwent either the same finger counting training (8 boys, 10 girls, Mage = 5.9 years; 10 kindergarteners and eight 1st graders) or another control vocabulary training (10 boys, 8 girls, Mage = 5.9 years; 11 kindergarteners and seven 1st graders). Results demonstrated that sighted children's arithmetic performance improved much more after the finger training than after the vocabulary training. Importantly, the positive impact of the finger training was also observed in both visually impaired participants (for addition and subtraction in one child; only for addition in the other child). These results are discussed in relation to the sensory compensation hypothesis and emphasize the importance of early and appropriate instruction of finger-based representations in both sighted and visually impaired children.

Keywords: Arithmetic abilities; finger training; finger-counting; visual impairment.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Fingers* / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Mathematical Concepts
  • Mathematics
  • Touch Perception / physiology
  • Visually Impaired Persons / rehabilitation