Are you familiar with TouchMath? Known as The Alphabet of Mathematics – this visually based approach to math can be perfect for our learners. It embeds prompting and utilizes the numbers as manipulative themselves! If you have students that are struggling to understand math concepts or if you are having a hard time fading away the use of counting prompts – be sure to check out TouchMath!
Why TouchMath is Great for Student with Autism:

It’s rule governed.
Our kids tend to like things that follow a pattern or routine. TouchMath has a set of rules we follow when completing problems. This works perfectly with some of our learners!

It’s visual.
Those magic little dots are your students’ very own visual cue. No more counting blocks or using your fingers – the manipulative is built right into the number. The dots provide a concrete representation of each number which is essential for our students!

It’s structured.
There is not much left to infer or analyze with this system. It’s straightforward which aligns well with theÂ concrete brains of some of our students!
When using TouchMath, be sure to:

Have a plan for fading those dots.
While I absolutely love TouchMath, I have a major warning label to throw over that endorsement. Be sure to have a plan for fading the dots. We do not want learners that rely on those touch points for the rest of their lives. We want students to utilize math in a functional way and that means across environments and settings. You better believe that no grocery store will have touchpoints on their price tags. So be sure to plan how you will fade those dots away.

Generalize, generalize, generalize!
Again, we want these math skills to be functional. That means not reliant on a certain prompt or type of worksheet. Start the generalizationÂ process right away!

Still work on the fluency/memorization piece!
You don’t need to only adhere to one approach while teaching math. I am always an advocate of giving our students a ‘bigger bag of tricks’ so they can be ready for anything. While you are working on TouchMath – continue to use fluency instruction to work on memorizing those important simple math facts.
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I will be divulging my age here but Touch Math was developed way back around 1980,81,82. I started using it in Abilene TX with my hearing impaired kids in 198182. I’ve used it in every group I’ve had since. It has grown and improved so much. I’m in NC now and Touch Math and I are still going strong.
Use it. Love it. But more importantly the kids use it and depend on it. I’m on the fence with touch money, but love this for adding!
Hi Sasha , will you be able to do a post on how to teach using Touch Maths with different examples. Thank you.
The students I see who have learned via touch math have never learned addition and subtraction facts. Every time they do addition or subtraction, they are counting the imaginary dots. While the dots should have been “faded”, the reality is that they become so comfortable for the students that they just can’t relinquish it. On a personal level I am totally baffled by the system, but I also would be interested in any research on students taught via touch math. How do they do with addition and subtraction problems as the transition through the grades?
I see this posted a while ago, but I just brought this form of adding up in my office. No one knew what I was talking about mostly because I refer to it as counting on the numbers. Honestly, the dots never go away; however, I found it to be quicker and more efficient technique for higher stages of math.
Love it! It’s such a proven method!
I agree!
I will definitely do that!
Many of my students how have used TouchMath for years, still “use” the dots but the dots are no longer physically on the numbers. Working on fluency is still important because even if they are always using the dots – they need to get quicker at it or else advancing to more complex math skills will be super difficult. I’d also be interested to see some research.
I have two students (High School) who have always used touch math. They are higher level students in reading but very behind in math because of touch math. My other students who can’t read pass them cognitively in math and have never used touch math. I need to get my two 16 year olds off touch math because they cannot add anything. Help!!!!!
When I was in elementary ( back in the late 60’s) this is how I learned to do math. I still use it today when my brain gets a little foggy.
I felt Touch Math was very confusing when I first encountered it being used with my son, but that was MY problem!! He did, and still does, do incredible with it. I do think math facts are important, but a good teacher is not relying on one method of teaching, but using various methods which should cover math facts. However, Touch Math has brought my son to a level of adding and subtracting double and triple digits that I’m not sure he would have without TM (he has Down syndrome). My youngest (with autism) uses TM and Yes You Can math. Whatever works, as long as we keep making progress!! Touch Money has been helpful here for coin addition as well.
I am looking for touch point addition and subtraction for a student to work on while his class is working on extra math. tried looking into apps but they cant download on the students chrome book for school. please share any website you may have found for first grade level.
I used touch dots as a kid. I still tap. It didnâ€™t hold me back. It helped me visualize the value of each number. I will say that I still tap numbers out with my finger or pencil when Iâ€™m tired or in a noisy room.
My daughter used in kindergarten and first but has grown past them now as she is going into forth.
I started showing my kindergartener today as he was struggling to get past his fingers. I usually have him slide manipulatives across the workspace but he didnâ€™t want to do that today.
Every teacher uses many different strategies. This is a good one for the math toolbox.
Great suggestions! Thanks for reading ðŸ™‚
I know and love Touch Math. However, I am always looking for a new resource to use with my students. What is Yes You Can Math? Do you know where it is from?
I graduated high school in 1970 and math was never one of my strong subjects…..I was using Touch Math then before there even was such a thing and still use it on occasion……I have a grandson who is dyslexic, in the 4th grade….what’s the difference if he’s singing this “song” as he counts on his fingers or if he uses Touch Math? As long as he’s completing his work and staying with his class, I don’t see a problem!
I used it sometimes as well! ðŸ™‚
Great to hear! Yes – I also agree it’s important to not rely on only one method of teaching. Glad this method was helpful for your kids ðŸ™‚
Yikes sorry – not sure of any websites or apps!
Completely agree! Whatever strategy works best!
Ruiner!
I used touch math shortly after it came out, even though I was not in any remedial classes of any sort, and in fact was a part of the gifted program in elementary school snd beyond. Unfortunately I became basically addicted to touch math, with all those darned posters and numbers with the dots on them in about 2nd or 3rd grade because once I learned the addictive system, I was unable to learn the rote memorization which needs to be taught during Elementary School for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Touch math RUINED me on quick basic math. Now (at upper young adulthood) I spend several times more time on dometjing simple like 18+7. I’d really like to meet that person who messed up my mathematical life.
I hope that any teacher reading this will think twice (or more), that touch math may be a good method for children who need a very remedial, low ability (with all respect as I have one close to me who never saw “Touch Math” system that replaces counting on fingers. Otherwise, help kids learn tables for two digits together with a mathematical symbol between them + – Ã— Ã· .
Thank you for sharing your opinion. Every individual is different and what doesn’t work for some may be helpful for others.
Update: I introduced my 16 year students to the calculator on their iphones. IT WORKED!!!! They now love math because their phones are always with them! It makes my heart smile to see how happy they are adding and subtracting money!
Hi there! Can I ask what Yes you can math is? We use TM in our school, but I have not heard of Yes You Can and am interested. ðŸ™‚ Thanks!
Love that! Thanks for sharing ðŸ™‚
What suggestions do you have regarding fading the dots?
Thank you,
Erica
We working on getting rid of the dots but practicing touching where the dots are. Also we work on fluency math facts in addition to this strategy to build memorization of the facts as well! ðŸ™‚
I was a student in TX in the early 90s and was taught touch math. I have no idea how to count on my fingers and I cringe at the idea of teaching my kindergarten to do that (I remember watching middle schoolers count their fingers and felt embarrassed for them) so I had to lookup the name of this program.
And as far as a method for removing the dots, you teach your child to draw/memorize where they are and then you teach them to pretend they are there and count at the location. You will see a small drop in skill/speed but I never had any problems after that. Though I have no idea how children with learning differences would adapt in all honesty.
I learned Touch Math in ’83 as a first grader. Nearly 40 and teaching it to my 3rd grader with autism bc Common Core strategies are too complicated for him, bless his heart.
To the teachers who spoke of older kids still using touch math, I can testify that as a grown adult, I no longer use touch math. That is, until my son and I were in neartears creating Common Core number lines on his homework from here to kingdomcome. Son, there IS an easier way!
Touch Math is a strategy, not THE strategy. And if you still teach algorithm math, it’s worth looking at for some students.
I think when my school taught it, we weren’t allowed to use the dots in 3rd grade math, but that was bc we had to memorize our flash cards on a timed test. (oh dear!)
Great points! Thanks for sharing! ðŸ™‚
Thanks so much for posting! I still use this method sometimes. Thanks for including that disclaimer for fading out dots.
Thanks for reading!
My daughter struggled with math in first grade. Finally, a title 1 teacher introduced her to touch point math. While it did fix her problem of being able to finally add/subtract and gave her the confidence she was lacking in math. She now suffers from being able to add or subtract without counting the dots (even though they are not on the numbers) Her speed has drastically slowed down and we struggle to get her to memorize math facts. She was evaluated and displayed a memory issue along with a decoding issue. While we are very grateful she has learned touch point math, we also feel it has become a huge crutch for her.
I see this happening a lot. Thanks for sharing!
My son learned with Touch Math, I think it helped him. We have done Reflex Math (a computer program) at home for memorizing math facts. He has done very well with it except for 149=5 (for some reason he hasn’t gotten it yet). It was a long time for him to learn the addition and subtraction facts, and he would forget some as he went along. I think Reflex Math is excellent because it reviews and it does encourage kids to go fast enough that they can’t count everything. I used to see my son do the excessive counting — it was a transition for him.
I will have to look that up! Sounds cool!
It adapts to the student and will review so many times. My son also likes earning tokens to spend. I am a huge fan of it. But my son did a lot with touch math and manipulatives before Reflex Math. It is just for memorizing math facts, but it is extremely nice for what it does. It also really helped my son to understand the concept of fact families, over time he understood that, too.
When I was in elementary school back in the ’70s I had a very difficult time reading, spelling and basic math.
My mom tried to help me learn to add by using domino…. adding the dots on the dominos.
After playing with those dominoes I started adding at school because I “saw” those domino dots on the numbers!!! I could add much faster and more accurately.
Granted, it would have been ideal if i could have retained math facts….but those dots kept me from being held back.
It wasnt until i was an adult and began sub teaching in a Sped classroom that i saw the children counting dots on the number…similar to what i did….i asked the teacher what they were doing? She told me it was touch math!! It was nearly the same thing i was doing but didnt realize it was being taught in schools!!!! I just sat there watching the kids in disbelief!
Students with math disabilities have working memory deficits. Students with ADHD and other executive functioning deficits have working memory deficits. Strategies that allow them to learn the computation with accuracy is not a crutch, in my opinion, but a strategy that allows them to complete grade level math. It is absolutely necessary to continue to work on fact fluency but I also believe we owe them a strategy that is portable and they can take with them anywhere. I work with 4th and 5th grade elementary students who are doing poorly in class because they continuously make errors in simple computation. They either a) try to use their fingers leading to even more time taken or b) try to “remember” it but we already know they have working memory deficits. I’m going to start teaching them Touch Points as another strategy because they can use it in multidigit addition and subtraction and I can focus on teaching them the place value reasoning. Do I have some who will use the Touch Points forever? Yes! But, they will be using it to solve grade level material with more independence. Do I have some who will take the strategy in and use it when they need (just like this adult with ADHD does when I’m teaching to hold my thinking)? Yes!! And, they will also be working in grade level material with more independence and another strategy in their bag of tools. Memorization, or lac thereof, is not a comment on intelligence or ability.
I’m a college professor. I have done more than 10 research on this method and it turned out to be effective. I continue my research with this method..
Thanks for reading ðŸ™‚
Yes!!! I just looked this up to introduce to my daughter with ADHD, because she cannot remember the facts and was not taught another method for working the problems. She has always made good grades, but since starting homeschool, I have noticed her freeze up on the problems she cannot remember. I am an adult with memory issues who never memorized math facts of any kind. I did struggle with timed tests (which are no longer considered good practice) but was always well above average on anything requiring critical thinking and excelled in college. Occasionally, I still visualize this method when doing simple calculations but the years of use has made the process as fast as recalling facts. Education should not be a “one size fits all” approach, and I still believe in accuracy over speed.
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