Small Streams

Extreme Finger Counting
May 6, 2007, 5:31 pm
Filed under: education, math

Reposted from December 16, 2004:Here’s a semi-useful bit of knowledge that might prove to be more useful later on. Intuitor’s site on binary counting has information on how to count with your fingers not only to ten but to 35, 99, 255, and even 1,023. It took me a while to get a hang of the system. The key is to change the base. In a decimal system (base 10), you only have room for one placeholder, ten digits represent ten units. In binary, you’ve got ten placeholders. Each finger by being up or down can represent a one or a zero.


As you might have figured out, four, 20, and other numbers are relatively not safe for work.

Just remember that each increase in a place holder is an increase in magnitude, and you’ve pretty much got it down. Here are the orders of magnitude in binary finger counting:

right pinky, 1

right ring, 2

right middle, 4

right index, 8

right thumb 16

left thumb, 32

left index, 64

left middle, 128,

left ring, 256

left pinky, 512.

To figure out what a big number is, just check to see whether a finger is up or down, zero or one, on or off.


(512 x 1) plus (64 x 1) plus (32 x 1) plus (1 x 1) equals 609. Rock on, or as we say in the binary finger counting world, “585.”

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

ehhh that’s about as confusing as the nines times tables using your fingers. i still mainatain i never learned that in school…

Comment by Sarah

There are 10 types of people in this world: Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

Comment by Jerry

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