How to Use the Dot System for Addition & Subtraction

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A dot system for teaching math works well for children who need a more hands-on approach. Different systems such as Touch Math and Dot Math use innovative methods to combine the different senses in teaching mathematics. Teachers introduce numbers by saying them out loud, while the students touch and read the dots on the numerals. This multisensory method quickly helps young children associate the real value of the numbers by touching the same number of dots with its numeric representation. After the numbers are mastered, the dot system easily teaches addition and subtraction to young children.

  • Touch Math or Dot Math counting patterns

1 Pass out the dot system

Pass out the dot system counting patterns that have the numbers with the dots imbedded within them. Educators and parents read out loud the numbers while the children touch and see them. This engages children whose learning styles are auditory, tactile and kinesthetic, which involves movement.

2 Read out the number

Read out the number "2" to begin teaching addition. Children will touch the two dots on the number "2" while the teacher says, "One, two." Explain to the students that you will be adding another amount to this "2."

3 Read out the number 1

Read out the number "1," while the children feel the dot on their counting patterns. Ask the children to count all the dots or numbers together. Ask the children for the outcome. Repeat their right answer, "3." Give positive reinforcement and say the computation again, "Two plus one equals three."

4 Explain

Explain to the students that subtraction is a way to take some numbers or dots away from a larger number. Read out loud the computation, "Three minus two." The children should feel their patterns.

5 Ask the children

Ask the children how many dots would be left, if they took two away from three. Tell the children to look and touch the number "3" pattern. Cover two of the dots with their hand. Ask how many dots are left; the children should conclude that there is only one left.

6 Repeat the subtraction problem

Repeat the subtraction problem to the students with the correct answer, "Three minus two equals one." Go over more math problems and ask the students to create their own addition and subtraction computations.

  • Grouping students in smaller groups may help them learn the material faster and better.
  • Help children master the numbers first before starting addition and subtraction.
  • Give children time to explore the counting patterns quietly and by themselves. This will give them the confidence and familiarity with numbers to work on more complicated math problems.

Charong Chow has been writing professionally since 1995. Her work has appeared in magazines such as "Zing" and "Ocean Drive." Chow graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts.