Mathematics: Touch Math

A Multisensory Approach to Mathematics: Touch Math


As a Special Educator, most of the students that I will work with will not learn to perform arithmetic equations the conventional way that regular education students will.   With programs such as Orton-Gillingham, Wilson and the rest, there are plenty of multisensory reading programs available for a wide range of students.  However, I have found, that there are not many multisensory math programs available for those students who need alternate ways of doing math, instead of using fingers, toes and any other body part.  While manipulatives for math are an excellent tool, and provide a visual for those students who are more visual-spatial learners, Touch Math is a program that, once learned, can be used to aid students complete math problems, without the use of manipulatives but also create a visual to guide them to a solution.


Simon and Hanrahan (2004) state that Touch Math, or the dot-notation approach, was “introduced by Kramer and Krug in 1973 for teaching arithmetic to children with special needs” (193).  It was looked at again and made better in 1989 by introducing all four basic math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) (Simon & Hanrahan, 193).  The basis around Touch Math is that on each numeral from 1-9, there are corresponding dots at specific points on the number.  Students use these dots to count their way to the correct answer.  Below is a diagram that shows the touch points of each number.


There is more than simply putting the numbers with the dots in front of a child and expecting them to magically know their math facts.  A lot of time is devoted in memorizing the touch points of each number.  Without this prerequisite, many children won’t fully grasp the Touch Math program.  Once the mastery of the touch points have happened, children can begin to solve simple addition problems.  Children complete single digit by single digit, and then more complicated math problems.  In order to complete these problems, children must learn to count backwards effectively, count by the multiple of numbers 1-9 (i.e. count by 4’s, 6’s, 7’s, etc.) in order to complete multiplication and division problems.


With Touch Math, there is a lot of memorization involved, whether it is the touch points, knowing the multiples, being able to count backwards, and mnemonic devices to make sure students arrive at the right answer.  This can be a bit overwhelming to some students, but if the instruction is taken slow, these problems can be either fixed or not occur at all.  The Touch Math program can be used as a supplement to an already existing curriculum, especially at the lower grades where addition and subtraction facts are bring initially learned.


During my student teaching tenure, I have seen Touch Math used on 4th graders who had math goals in their IEPs.  I was a little hesitant on using Touch Math because I thought it was a bit too simple for these 4th graders.  However, when it was introduced, a lot of hidden weaknesses started to come out.  These kids did not have any fluency in their addition and subtraction facts, and forget about double digit addition where regrouping was called for.  One of the kiddos had been introduced to Touch Math in previous years, so he was able to recall a lot of the information rather quickly.  The other child took a little bit longer but picked it up rather quickly, nonetheless.


Before we jumped into subtraction, we practiced counting backwards, and learned the various sayings that come along with learning the program.  The group hadn’t gotten to the multiplication and division portion of the Touch Math program before I left, but I imagine that it was a bit more difficult to master.  The kids did not have any strategy, other than a multiplication chart, to help guide them through multiplication and division problems.  With the Touch Math program, they would have had to learn the multiples of each number, so they could count each dot effectively.



As a youngster, I was never that good in math, and I was never exposed to Touch Math.  However, I remember developing my own strategies much like Peppermint Patty used to figure out addition problems with 3’s. I think I also used the same strategy for addition problems with 4’s too.  While it may not be the best approach to every kid, I think it helps students break away from using manipulatives, which are great in their own right, but may not be as versatile or easily carried everywhere if a math problem pops up.  With Touch Math, students can discreetly work on their problem, without bringing out the base 10 blocks and hundred charts.





Scott, K. S. (1993). Reflections on “multisensory mathematics for children

with children with mild disabilities”.Exceptionality4(2), 125-129.


Simon, R., & Hanrahan, J. (2004). An evaluation of the touch math method

for teaching addition to students with learning disabilities in

mathematics. European Journal of Special Needs Education19(2),



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