According to the “Youcubed” Stanford University’s mathematics education research, the common notion – even among teachers – that finger-counting isn’t for smart children is misguided. On the contrary, using your fingers to count is a critical help in math learning. Jo Boaler, professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, says that visual cues and pathways in the brain are key to math understanding.

Finger perception is so important for our brain that this may be the reason why pianists and other musicians are often better at math than people who don’t play a musical instrument. Boaler warns that discouraging children to count with their fingers is a risk to slow down their development in mathematics. “Fingers are probably our most useful visual aid, critical to mathematical understanding, and brain development, that endures well into adulthood,” explains the professor.

Picture: A child counting on her fingers (Arcanys Early Learning Foundation)