Digital Counting: Fun with Binary

My last few posts have been a bit serious so let’s have a little fun! It’s easy to count to 10 with your fingers, and you can count to 20 if you throw your toes into the mix. But how can you use your fingers to go higher than that? You could throw in your knuckles and count those, but that requires a lot of dexterity!

An easier option (once you get the hang of it) is to use binary. And it’s fun to see the confused looks on people’s faces when you hold your hand up with four fingers extended and tell them that’s fifteen :-).

Ready to try? First, you have to understand binary. There’s a PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) tutorial on YouTube for this, so rather than explaining it in my post, if you don’t already know binary I suggest you take a few minutes to go watch the video:


So now that you know binary, you know how easy it is to count to 15 in both binary and decimal:



Consider the 1’s and 0’s of binary as on/off switches — on (or up) is 1 and off (or down) means 0. So with four fingers, I can easily represent 4 binary digits of 0 and 1.


If you want to use your thumb, you can extend that up to 31. How far can you go on two hands?



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