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Monday, June 16, 2008

Welcome to Fire Away With Finger Patterns (FAWFP)

Do you want to teach your 2 year old how to count or help your struggling students?

Would you like to give your child an early jump in mathematics? Do you have a toddler that loves to count, but you don't know how to help them? Are you an early childhood teacher and you notice your students struggling with early counting? My name is Kellie Merrill and I am a Math Recovery specialist ( and a mother of two young, energetic boys. Over the past few years, I developed a method to work with my students and my sons that may be helpful for you. I have seen first-hand with my three-year-old son, how exposing your child to early counting (as early as 2 years old) jump starts their entry into early mathematics.

I developed a process that I call, “Firing Away with Finger Patterns” to teach young children about counting and early numeracy. What can your child or student learn from finger patterns?

  • They will learn how to count!

  • They will learn how to link quantity to numbers! Warning: This may mean more negotiations for cookies, minutes until bedtime, etc..

  • The earlier you start, the better off your little counters will be! This is the basis of mathematics and is key for early numeracy development.

Why Finger Patterns?

Finger patterns are not a new concept. When I was in first grade I used my fingers to help me count, but like many of you, I was told this was not correct. So I found ways to count my fingers under my desk. Now that I am a teacher and a Math Recovery Specialist/Trainer, I have learned and seen first hand how important this simple step is to build a solid foundation for early mathematics.

The last five years I have been working with first graders as a Math Recovery specialist. My students have all been identified through assessment as struggling with early numeracy. One of the key concepts that we work on is finger patterns. I noticed that when teaching my students finger patterns, they had a hard time with holding down their fingers so I developed the Fire Away method. I found this approach to be more kid friendly and the context continues to be easy for them to grasp.

I discovered the most impressive thing about finger patterns when I began working with my son on finger patterns, who is now 4, when he was 2. Right around his 2nd birthday I started asking him how old he was. I first showed him how to make a fist then had him Fire Away a 1. He caught on to the 1 very quickly, but moving to 2 was really hard especially on little hands. Once he understood how to hold down the other three fingers and practiced showing me how old he was, moving from 2 to 3 was easier.

When Should I Start Finger Patterns?

I am now working with my 13 month old on making a 1. I know realistically it is the last thing he wants to do. He would rather be crawling or eating dirt, but I have started to lay down the foundation of counting by just showing him 1. He is around his big brother who is now hooked on finger patterns and makes them all day long. My older son really started to grasp making patterns right around his second birthday. For early elementary school age children, reviewing how to make finger patterns can only help them with advancing their skills to higher levels of solving problems.

How Do I Start?

The biggest thing I have noticed about teaching my own son is incorporating his world into learning his finger patterns. Such as making his age on his fingers, how many stories he wants at bedtime or even how much more time left he has to play. Watch the video below to see how Dylan is now making his finger patterns. Remember he has been doing this for a few years now, but you can start the same way.

Getting Started: Making 1 to 5 on Right and Left Hands

  • Make a fist on your right hand with the thumb holding all the fingers snuggly down on top of the nail beds.

  • Tell your child to “Fire Away” a 1 (this gives them the hint to release only 1 finger while the others are still held down waiting to be fired)

  • Continue this same pattern from 1 to 5 on the right hand then switch making 1 to 5 on the left hand.

What is next?

Practice, practice, practice and stay tuned to this site for the next step in counting where we start to link what we are doing with our fingers to the world around us. If you have any question or would like to get ahead, please email me at

Thank you!


fbh said...

Yea Kellie! This is great information and easy to understand.
Can't wait for your updates.

Unknown said...

Kellie -

You've done a wonderful job with this site! I really like the video demonstration (what a cutie!) and the very clear pictures. I love the 'Fire Away' mantra! We did the finger thing naturally with Jackson and Maddy who loved counting with their fingers. This is a great reminder to start working with Graham more consistently. Thanks for the great tips! I'll keep check ing back.


alicia said...

cool! what if Paisley is a lefty? Do I start with her dominate hand or does it affect the way this program progresses?

Unknown said...

I love this site Kellie. Great job. Can't wait to see what is next. Please let your little actor know he is super talented in the counting and cuteness area of expertise!

Clementine, Alice said...

Kellie this is great! Thanks for pursuing this. The site is pleasant to look at and great to read in short stints of time - and I love to see the faces of your boys included in the process.

Thanks for sharing the tools.