Advanced finger counting, and other tricks I use that noone else does

I’ve found that there are little time-saving tricks I use day to day that other people don’t use, and indeed often don’t understand when I try to explain them.

For example, I have a certain way to tally and add things up on my fingers that my mother taught me when I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. On my left hand I tally starting with my little finger and count upwards, 1 2 3 4, to the index finger, and then use the thumb to signify 5. The other four fingers are “cleared” at this point, and I can use them to keep counting up to 9 on one hand. (E.g., 8 = thumb plus index finger, middle finger, and last the ring finger.

Once I reach 9, I advance one more by transferring the tally to my right hand, where each finger signifies a multiple of 10–except the thumb, which signifies 50. Using all ten of my fingers in combination, I can count up to 99. And I can rapidly add two numbers together as long as the sum comes to 99 or below.

Does that make any sense at all? This counting method is second nature to me, but I’m the only one who ever uses it (that I know of) and it’s bloody hard to explain! I’ve tried to teach it to my wife, but she never “gets” it, or perhaps just isn’t that interested.

Another thing I came up with on my own: I sometimes work as an editor, and occasionally I want to check two printouts of a document to see if they’re exactly the same version. Fast way to do this: I put two versions of the same page side by side, cross my eyes so that one page seems to go “on top” of the other, and look at a “combined” page as if it were a 3D Viewmaster. If there is a difference of even one word between the two, my binocular vision makes the errant word leap out at me.

Needless to say, anyone I’ve tried explaining this to looks at me like I’ve grown a third nose or something.

Have you ever heard of or tried these tricks yourself? Any others of your own you’d like to share?

The counting method you are using is called chisenbop, and enjoyed a brief, limited vogue in the US in the early 1980s. I seem to recall Fred MacMurray doing a lengthy commercial for some teaching system you could send away for.

Well, what do you know: chisanbop. I did know that my mother got this method from something she had seen on TV, and I might even dimly recall something to do with Fred MacMurray. Must have been the late 70s, though.

I learned Chisanbop from some kids that were on Johnny Carson (probably late 70s), because I thought it was cool. Only use it occasionally, though. I believe you’re supposed to be able to multiply with it too, but I never understood how.

I must say I tried your proofing method because that would be really handy, but I can’t get it to work. I can’t get the two sheets to overlap or something.

Pfft, I can easily count to 1023 using my two hands, but only to 31 using one.

Yeah, like bouv, some of us figured out when we learned base 2 that you could count to massively high numbers.

Further, with minor revisions, you might even be able to go to 59049 or 1048576.

I once read in my brother’s Boy Scout manual about how to have a small measuring system always handy. If you’re caught without a ruler or tape somewhere that you need them, you will still always be able to judge small measurements relatively accurately.

Measure a few parts of your fingers, hands and arms and memorize those measurements. For instance, I know that my second joint on my little finger is exactly 1", and that the width of the back of my hand at the knuckle point is 3", etc. Don’t know how I would measure greater distances, though!

I’ve used chisenbop for years, and I occasionally count in binary with my fingers too.

Regarding your editing technique; if I’m viewing something that is very close in similarity, I don’t cross my eyes. I just put one document on top of the other and hold it up to the light. Any differences in the documents will become very obvious.

Oh, one more thing. I also know how long the bottoms of my shoes are, and the distance from my elbow to the tip of my middle finger, and how far I can stretch my arms out finger tip to finger tip (the shoe measurement and the stretched arms measurement have proved invaluable over the years).

I saw that episode too, and I seem to remember him multiplying too as he beat Johnny Carson using a calculator. (Although I seem to also remember Carson having trouble working the calculator. Typical Carson, making himself the butt of the joke, and it was frickin’ hilarious. I sure miss him)

Anyway, I don’t remember how to multiply either, but I do recall that it was possible.

I don’t have a clue how to do any other times table on my hands or what you do when you pass 9*10.

Yup, that was the one. Kid using fingers whupped on him and his calculator! It was great.

One I’ve got into the habit of doing:

When brushing my teeth in the morning, I follow the following steps to save time:

1. Grab toothpaste tube with left hand (I’m right-handed).
2. Start unscrewing the cap with the thumb and index finger of my left hand while holding the tube itself in my left palm.
3. While doing that, turn the tap on with my right hand, then grab the brush and rinse it under the tap.
4. By this time, the cap’s off in my left, and I hold it between left thumb and index while using the rest of the hand to squeeze a dollop onto the brush.
5. Start brushing with my right.
6. Meanwhile, with my left, fit the cap back onto the tube and screw it closed. And put the tube away.

It probably only saves about five seconds a time, but for some reason it feels good.

Oh, and because you’re squeezing from the middle of the tube, you need to squeeze back up from the bottom (a two-handed job) from time to time. And it doesn’t work when the tube’s almost empty.

This is way cool!! I’m going to freak out my little cousins with this

What about with a revision like this?

I remember they covered this on TV in the 70s as well . Not with Fred MacMurray this time, though.