Monday, February 17, 2014


My cousin has some great mind-bending posts on his blog, including his post this week about Twelve. That caused me to think of this follow-up post.

My oldest sister's kids all were born with 'extra' digits... toes, fingers, etc.
So what did the doctor do when they were born? Showed them to their father/mother (one of whom is a doctor himself), and then promptly chopped them off. And now those kids all grew up to be 'pretty' smart, but they could have been geniuses...

So I'm thinking since I don't have two more fingers, I can count 6 on each hand by simply making a closed fist to represent 0. The problem is that we aren't starting with 0 or giving it enough credit!

That ends up working like this:
  • 0: only using one hand so far, with all fingers closed (this is really the first number)
  • 1: only one hand up, with 1 finger up, just like you normally count to 1 (we've really counted 2 things, including 0)
  •  2..5: same as normal with one hand (but we've really counted up to 6 so far, including 0)
  •  6: now you bring up the other hand, and add fingers as normal.
  •  7-9: this is still totally normal counting for everybody, (but don't forget 0!)
  •  d (10): I think lower case d would make more sense, (you can fit it onto a digital, and it is d as in dime, diez, dez, which mean 10. Over time I think everyone would call it dez.)
  • L: L is for ELeven, which makes it easy to remember, and also makes some sense as meaning L for loaded up or large or something like that.

To show 10, you'd be holding up 10 fingers.

To show L (11), you'd close all the fingers on both hands! Really you've counted 12 numbers, including zero.

Closing all fingers on both hands makes it fast to be ready to move on to the next number, because you just drop one hand and you are now at the number 12.

It gets kind of confusing after that, but that's just because we aren't used to counting by 12s.

Every time you have just one hand up with all the fingers down you'd be at a multiple of 12, and if you have both hands up you'd be at the number right before that.

Sounds simple enough.
Now take it another step and place your hands in different elevations to show how many 12s you've added.

  • 0: away from body (most common for smaller numbers)
  • 1: Knees
  • 2: thighs
  • 3: waist / stomach
  • 4: chest

I found 12 different ways I could hold my hands, but I think the above 5 would be easier, and you could count right up to 59 (which is 60 numbers) with just 5 easy to remember positions.

You really don't need the number 60 on a digital display when counting minutes and seconds, you just need to 59, which is what we'd be counting.

I think I'll start using this system for base 10 numbers and base 2 numbers, which I frequently count on my fingers so I can count much higher than 10. I can count up to 512 on two hands, but usually only need to count up to 100 or so.

When I used to commute in L.A. I would count the number of cars I passed or who passed me on each side of my car (with the corresponding hand for each side of the car), so I could gauge the efficiency of my lane. Using base 2 made me able to count enough for that job really well. If it got over a certain number I'd switch into the better performing lane, and smile as my hand starting counting the number I'd passed instead of the number passing me. You do have to hide the number 4 and similar numbers from other drivers. (See if you can figure that one out!)