Aptly named, TouchMath is a multi-sensory, paper-and-pencil approach to basic computation. It emphasizes the sense of touch to clarify and simplify the four basic computation processes. Students touch numbers in the consistent TouchMath Touchpoint pattern. Simultaneously, they count out loud to accelerate learning by involving sound. They decipher math problems quicker because TouchMath is truly multi-sensory -- it provides success through seeing, saying, hearing and touching.

I use TouchMath, or Touchpoints, as a way of teaching my students basic arithmetic. Basically, each number has a corresponding number of points that you touch and count; one has one point, two has two points, etc. The points look sort of like this:

*     *-----\      *    *      *-----@       @----@
|           |      |    |           /       |      |
|       *--/       *----*          @         \ ___/
|           |           |         /         /      \
|           |           |        @          |      |
|     *-----/           |       /            @____@

(I just love ASCII art, don't you?)

The asterisk is touched and counted once; the @ symbols represent “double” touchpoints, which look like bullseyes and are touched and counted twice. Many of you may use a similar system of counting that you stumbled on yourself; if you are adding a string of numbers, say,

8 + 7 + 6 + 8 + 3 =

You may say to yourself, "Where's my calculator?" Then again, you might say, “Eight and seven are fifteen, fifteen and six are twenty one, and eight more makes twenty-nine…” and then instead of automatically adding twenty-nine and three, you say, “thirty, thirty-one, thirty-two.” That counting-up style is the basis of touchmath. Children are taught the placement of the dots on the numbers, and how to count all of the dots to arrive at the right answer:

3 + 4 =     Becomes “One, two, three, . . . four, five, six, seven. The answer is seven.”

The next step is to teach children to name the first (or bigger) number in an addition problem, and count from there:

8 + 5 =     Becomes “Eight, . . . nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen. The answer is thirteen.”

For subtraction, children learn to count backwards from twenty, and then touch the bottom number and count down:

   - 8

Becomes "Fourteen,. . . thirteen, twelve;   eleven, ten;   nine, eight;   seven, six. The answer is six." (semi-colons are used to indicate where the eight has been touched twice on the "bullseye" double touchpoints).

For multiplication, students are first taught to say the times tables in sequence:

  2    3    4    5
  4    6    8   10
  6    9   12   15
  8   12   16   20
 10   15   20   25   etc.
 12   18   24   30
 14   21   28   35
 16   24   32   40
 18   27   36   45
 20   30   40   50

After which, they count by one number in a multiplication problem while touching the points on the other:

6 x 4 =     Becomes "Four, eight;   twelve, sixteen;   twenty, twenty-four. The answer is twenty-four." (Or, if they want to count by sixes, “Six, twelve, eighteen, twenty-four.” Lovely how it works either way, hmmm?)

Saying the multiplication facts in sequence is also the basis for division.

When they are first learning, students work with math problems where the dots are drawn on the numbers; next, they draw the dots themselves, and eventually, they touch and count the numbers without having to draw the dots. Having the dots gives students who have trouble memorizing facts a concrete method for finding the right answer. The end goal, of course, is to be able to conceptualize and memorize the math facts, but not every child will be able to do that. As the official TouchMath website points out,

Some students with disabilities will find touching and counting to be the only way they will function adequately in math. . . In these cases, TouchMath provides a way for them to be both fast and accurate—skills they need in the real world.

TouchMath was developed in 1976 by a teacher who was trying to figure out how to teach math to students with learning difficulties. This multi-sensory approach is currently being used in both special and regular education as well as homeschool settings in all fifty states and thirteen foreign countries. Teachers have found that TouchMath “virtually eliminates math anxieties while it raises test scores.” I know this sounds like an advertisement for the program, and the information in this paragraph is right off the website, but I have been using this system for 15 years, and it really does work. If you’ve got kids struggling with arithmetic, quick, go visit the website: http://www.touchmath.com/index.php

Good God, I've been teaching for 15 years. How did that happen? And I'm so young!