Math Readiness and Diversity Challenge First Grade Teachers

Talk with first-grade teachers around the country, and you'll hear the same concern echoed time and again: children at this age have reached vastly different levels of math readiness. Some have been to preschool and kindergarten; some have not. Some are from transient or underprivileged households and have fallen behind their peers. Classrooms are becoming more diverse, often including children who speak English as a second or third language. Helping less-prepared students catch up quickly and stimulating children at all levels are two of the primary challenges facing first-grade teachers today.

"As I'm introducing numbers," observes Jean Bellinghausen, a first-grade teacher from Newell, Iowa, "we use TouchPoints right away. Even when children are struggling, it doesn't take them long to learn how to touch and count. It's so much easier and quicker for them to catch up and understand.

"You can see the children smiling because they can get their work finished, and finished correctly. We have fun with it. TouchMath helps their self-esteem as well as their math skills."

Terri Greenwell, a first-grade teacher in Titusville, Florida, wishes more teachers knew about TouchMath. "The system works. It works for all levels of students. It's a confidence builder in the lower-functioning children, and it's a faster way to help advanced students build their speed and comprehension."

TouchMath helped Greenwell's own son to study at home. "We were teaching him basic subtraction. He often forgot the problem before he finished it. We taught him to say the high number in a problem first, then tap the TouchPoints and count backwards."

Elementary school teacher Danette Williams from Colorado Springs spends the first weeks of each school year helping her students practice counting. "I use TouchMath masters on an overhead projector and we practice counting the TouchPoints together.

"I think it's the tactile learning approach that helps more than anything. They're actually touching what they're learning instead of just memorizing."

Williams remembers one student in particular, a shy girl who had difficulty with math. Williams spent extra time with her during recess, reviewing the TouchMath method. Before long, a light bulb came on.

"TouchMath made a tremendous difference in her ability to understand math. She mastered touching numbers and counting out loud, instead of counting on her fingers. TouchMath helped us turn around a frustrating situation."

Terri Greenwell has come to the same conclusion as so many of her colleagues around the country: Educators must find more effective ways to teach math to diverse student groups.

"TouchMath is a product that's going to reach every child. It's good for every type of learner, whether they're visual, auditory or kinesthetic. I'd like to see all teachers using TouchMath, starting in kindergarten."

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