Preschoolers’ Ways of Using Fingers in Numerical Reasoning

  • Camilla BjörklundEmail author
  • Maria Reis


This is a study of preschoolers’ ways of using fingers in numerical reasoning, before formal education. Research advocates finger use in early mathematics as it is found to be related to number sense and arithmetic skills, but whether children should be encouraged to use fingers or not in solving arithmetic problems remains debated. Our study contributes with an analysis of finger use as expressions of ways to experience numbers and thus related to arithmetic problem-solving proficiency. We analyzed 133 observations of 4- to 5-year-olds’ ways of using fingers when solving arithmetic tasks. The analysis revealed that preschoolers may use their fingers in three distinctly different ways. Two of these ways are expressions of number knowledge that do not enable the child to solve the arithmetic tasks and one seems to be more prosperous. Based on the results, we suggest that it is not finger use per se that facilitates arithmetic problem-solving but how fingers are used.


Arithmetic skills Counting single units Fingers Numerical reasoning Part-part-whole structure Iconic representation of numbers Variation theory of learning 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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