Introduction: How to Count Higher Than 10 on Your Fingers

Picture of How to Count Higher Than 10 on Your Fingers

After seeing another instructable, describing how to count in binary, I decided to release my own instructable that provided a couple alternative ways to count on ones fingers. I'll be describing four (and a half) methods here, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.

What you'll need: 2 hands! That's it. Also, this instructable is written under the assumption that you like to start count off your fingers on your hand starting with the pointer, then the middle finger, the ring finger, the pinky, then the thumb. Go ahead, count to 5 normally on your fingers. Did you do it like I just described? Good. If not, adjust accordingly.

In each step, I'll describe it starting from your left hand (used interchangeably with "first hand"), and the moving onto your right hand ("second hand") These correspond with the hands in the left- and right-side of the pictures. If you like doing it the other way around, feel free to switch, after you've gotten the hang of it.

A little note: the last 3 methods are called "Kabukistar I," "Kabukistar IIa" and "Kabukistar IIb," respectively. this is because I thought of them myself. Not to say that I was the first one to ever think of them, in fact I'm almost positive that these were known long before I thought of them. So, if anyone can find mention of these methods that shows their real names, show me where, and I'll change their name on this instructable, accordingly.

Step 1: Binary

Picture of Binary

This is the method people like to promote alot on the internet. It's called binary, because it's very similar to the way that computers count. And it's based on using every possible combination of fingers being either up or down.

Counting range: 0 through 1023
Pros: Easy To learn, and Easy to count up.
Cons: Difficult to start with a large number, and takes some thinking to realize what number you're at, just by looking at your fingers. Requires you to flip the bird, with some numbers (like 18).

The basic idea is that each finger is the sum of all the previous fingers (in the order you put them up counting normally), plus one.
So, start with having all your fingers down. This is 0 Now, stick your pointer finger up on your left hand, and this is 1. So, naturally, your middle finger on your left hand will be worth two (it's the sum of your previous fingers [which happens to be just your pointer finger] plus 1) So, to ahve 2, you just have that middle finger up. Since it's worth 2, and your pointer finger's worth 1, you put them both up to get 3.
Next, of course, your ring finger is worth the sum of all the previous fingers (1+2=3) plus 1 (3+1=4) So it's worth four. You can now use these three fingers to count up to 7, so the pinky is worht 7+1. You can use these four fingers to count up to 15, so the thumb is worth 16.
You can continue doing this with your other hand, where the fingers are worth 32, 64, 128, 256, and 512. You may notice that the fingers are going up in powers of 2, but if you didn't notice that, then just ignore it.
Anyways, once you have all your fingers up, it will total up to 1023; that's the highest you can count.

Step 2: Counting by Sixes

Picture of Counting by Sixes

This was a method that was shown to me by my math teacher, and I thought I would include it here. He called it "counting by sixes."

Range: 0 through 35
Pros: really easy to do
Cons: can only count to 35; and more difficult to start with a higher number than it should be for such a low range.

Ok, basically, how this works, each finger is worth as much as is shown in the picture. You count from 1 -5 as you would normally. Then, to reach 6, you put all the fingers on your first (left) hand down, and put up one finger on your right hand (each of which is worth 6). Then, with this finger up, you use your the fingers on your left had to count up to 11, and stick another finger on your right hand up for 12.
You keep continuing in this pattern, putting up 5 fingers on your left hand, then 1 finger on your right hand, until you have all your fingers up, at which point you'll be at 35 (30 on your right hand and 5 on your left hand).

Step 3: Chisenbop (formerly "Kabukistar Method I")

Picture of Chisenbop (formerly "Kabukistar Method I")

Chisenbop was called "Kabukistar Method I" on here, until I was informed that it's already called Chisenbop, so I changed it accordingly.
This one is my favourite method, and the one I use in every-day life.

Range: 0 through 99
Pros: Easy to do, easy to tell where you're at by looking at your hands, and easy to directly input a larger number.
Cons: Only 99, but that's still pretty good for most uses.

Ok, the basic idea for this one is that you use your left hand to count the numbers in the "ones" column of the number, and use your right hand to count the "tens" column of the number. So, on your left hand, you can count from 0-9, and on your right hand, you count from 0-90 (in tens).

Alright, to start use your non-thumb fingers on your left hand to count from 1 to 4. To hit 5, put your left thumb up, and all the other fingers down, then, you can use the non-thumb fingers again, to fount from 6 to 9.

On your right hand, each finger is worth 10X what is is on your left hand, so, to reach 10, you just put a finger up on your right hand then use your left hand in the same manor, to count up to 19, at which point you put another finger up on your right hand, for 20.
You can keep doing this until you have all your fingers up, worth 9 on your left hand and 90 on your right hang, totally 99.

Step 4: Kabukistar Method IIa

Picture of Kabukistar Method IIa

This one is almost exactly like the binary one, but multiplied by five. It's easier to use in alot of ways, harder in others.

Range: 0 through 2559
Pros: Can count incredibly high. Works with multiples of five, so it's fairly easy to use
Cons: Requires you to flip the bird, sometimes. Also, makes you contort your hands into akward positions.

Alright, like I said, this one's alot like binary times five. Notice that every finger is double the previous finger. And also, that each finger is the sum of all the previous fingers plus five (instead of plus 1). So, it's really easy to count in fives with this. But how do you count the numbers between multiples of five? Well, that's what the thumb on your first hand (marked with an "X," because it has no specific value) is for. If that thumb is touching your pointer, middle, ring, or pinky finger, it's adding 1, 2, 3, or 4 to the value (respectively).

SO, to start off, all your fingers are down; this is zero. Touch your thumb to your pointer, middling, ring, and pinky fingers to count up 1, 2, 3, 4. Next, make it so your thumb isn't touching any fingers, and stick up your pointer finger to get five. Do the thumb-touches again to count up 6, 7, 8, 9, and then put your pointer finger down and your middle finger up to get ten. Do the thumb-touches again to 14, then have your pointer and middle finger up to get 15. Keep doing this, until you have all your fingers up, and your thumb touching your pinky, for a value of 2559.

Your thumb on your second hand acts like just another finger.

Step 5: Kabukistar Method IIb

Picture of Kabukistar Method IIb

I'm calling this Kabukistar Method IIb, because it's very similar to IIa, but has a higher ranger.

Range: 0 - 6399
Pros: Highest-counting method here.
Cons: Confusing, and easy to lose track of what you're doing. Requires you to flip the bird sometimes. Akward hand positions.

Ok, this is alot like Kabukistar Method IIa, except that the thumb on your second hand acts like the thumb on your first hand, instead of your second hand just acting in simple binary. In this way, everything on your second hand is exactly like your first hand, but multiplyed by 80.

SO, you count up to 79 normally, on your first hand, then touch your thumb on your second hand to signify 80. Next, you count from 80 up to 159 on your first hand, and then touch your thumb to your middle finger on your second hand to equal 160. Keep doing this, so that touching your thumb to your ring finger will be worth 240, and touching it to your pinky will be worth 320. Next, your pointer finger on your second hand will be worth 400 (like I said, it's just like your first hand, but times 80).
When all your fingers are up, and each thumb is touching their respective pinky, you will have a total of 6399.


wappentake (author)2006-08-08

Kabukistar Method I is the same as Chisenbop.

I seem to recall seeing television ads for this method in the '70s.

It's known as Chisenbop, but what you're describing is Finger Math. It was popularized by a math professor (?) in the 70's, releasing a book and a television show. I read the book, and it's pretty cool, you are able to do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division just by tapping your fingers as long as the answer is less than 99 (and you can also use a mnemon, like biting your tongue or tapping your feet to add up to 199, 299, and so on). I wrote a paper on it from a computer science point of view (never published, unfortunately).

No, what they are describing IS Chisenbop, which DID have a series of commercials during the 70s.

KABUKISTAR (author)wappentake2006-08-08

Hmmm... I read the entry in Wikipedia, and that does look alot like the method I describe. I'll change the instructable to call it Chisenbop

seabee890 (author)2010-07-08

OH YAAA!?!?!?! WELL, I CAN COUNT TO 21,,,,, EXCEPT IN COLD WEATHER,,, THEN IT IS 20 AND A HALF... SO THERE.... I think i will stick to keeping texas instruments in business a little longer. Less chance of looking like a huge Naruto fan... good info, thanks

mullman (author)2006-11-06

iam smarter then all u people i can count in my head

rubberducky47 (author)mullman2010-07-05

Ninety percent of these people are smarter then you, they can spell AND use proper grammar!

fwjs28 (author)mullman2009-05-26

who wants a cookie...YOU!?!?! NO, you get a backhand..*swappp*

YummyPancakes (author)mullman2008-04-06

Who can't?

Matt21497 (author)2009-07-13

Theres numbers after 10? Where have I been. oh yeah on instructable all day

intoon (author)2006-08-07

I like to use my toes.

fwjs28 (author)intoon2009-05-26

i use bananas

changuito07 (author)intoon2008-11-06

what the heck

fwjs28 (author)2009-05-26

i can count over 10 on one hand without using binary..

PKM (author)2008-11-28

I have an easier method that I sometimes use that lets you count to 100. I like it because it's a good mid-point between the normal 10 and the binary 1000, but is barely more difficutl than counting normally.

Letting T=thumb, I=index, M=middle, R=ring and P=pinky finger, you count to 9 on your first hand with the sequence


then raise the thumb on yoru second hand to represent 10, and continue. Each addition of 1 only involves changing one finger except breaking a new ten, which changes two, and the method is very logical and easy to learn. It's very easy to visualise because your left hand can be the 10s place and your right hand the units like a normal two-digit number.

Bobthewrecker (author)2007-07-19

I found a much simpler way to count, do it in your head.

good point

changuito07 (author)2008-11-06

I dont get it but I can count higher then 10 im not dumb

wi-fi astronomer (author)2008-03-21

I like binary, but with the smallest finger as the 1, the next as 2, the swear finger as 4, the index as 8 and thumb as 16. I've been doing it that way pre-Internet when I programmed an old Commodore 64.

bruno13069 (author)2008-02-13

I use Chisenbop with an addition.
Use your wrists as binary 100's. L=100. R=200. L+R=300.

nanor11395 (author)2007-12-10


reeveorama (author)2006-08-26

Very nice, some nice methods - some simpler than others. Personally, I use the binary method. A point to improve on - the hands in the pictures are how other people look at them when you show them your palms (thumbs in the center), rather than how it looks when you are looking at your own palm (pinkies in the center). It would be easier for people to learn from the pictures if they are looking at what the would see in real life. Thanks for the nice instructable :) .

canida (author)2006-08-08

Here you go: another numbering scheme.

canida (author)2006-08-08

Neat! A helpful tutorial; I like the options. We used a slightly different method for numbering our mice by toe-clipping. I'll try to put up an instructable on this one tomorrow and will link to yours.

Stormed (author)2006-08-07

Although probably not as effective as some you posted, there is another method of counting used by the Chinese. My dad showed it to me a few times although I've never picked it up. Looks kind of like using sign language to convey numbers. I hear it's really useful if you're in a foreign country near/around Asia and are trying to buy something. You can use your hands to bargain with a merchant even if you don't speak the language. If I find out how, expect to see another instructable on finger counting.

Stormed (author)Stormed2006-08-07

ahhhh. lol a simple google search did it xD. You can count to 18 on 2 fingers and it looks like how you would write them in Chinese. I'll have to learn your way and this way i guess then. And, as inefficient as the Chinese way is, it's known pretty much everywhere in that region so it's good for haggling moreso than personal counting.

leevonk (author)2006-08-07

an easy way to count to ten on one hand (twenty on both) is by raising a finger for each number 1-5 (starting with the thumb) and then bending a finger down half way (starting with the thumb) for 6-10. Then if you want to count to fifteen on each hand (30 on both), start dropping the fingers down all the way (starting with the thumb). If you count above 10, when you're done you'll know you're in the 11-15 range because your lower fingers will be down while the higher fingers will be down half way.

C.J.T (author)2006-08-07

This is sweet. Oh, the power of fingers...

Grimling (author)2006-08-07

Briljant !!! this is so funny and so simple , but you have been thinking about it :p never tought i could count more than 10 on my fingers xD

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