According to a research project published in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, tracing over mathmatical problems with one’s finger helps develop mathematical understanding.
Tracing can help when learning not only spatial topics such as shapes and angle relationships, but also for non-spatial tasks such as learning the order of tasks in arithmetic problems.
For instance, pupils who traced over the addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and brackets symbols in problems such as 7 x (31 – 20) + 56 ÷ (5 – 3) = ? solved more problems correctly on a subsequent test.
The study also found that pupils who traced over key elements of maths problems were able to solve other questions that extended the initial maths problem further, showing that the tracing was helping them develop a deeper, more flexible understanding of the problem-solving methods.