Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Counting with my fingers


We just did matrix multiplication, and I shocked my class by telling them that I think that is the perfect place to count with your fingers. I put my left pointer finger on the first element of the appropriate row, I put my right pointer finger on the first element of the appropriate column, do the multiplication, and move one element right and one element down to the next multiplication. Of course you need to mentally, or some other way, add these products, so that cij = ∑k aik * bkj. The other time I count with my fingers is when I do modular arithmetic, such as determining what is 7 months after October. I don't teach physics or three dimensional vectors, but I guess another application is the Right Hand Rule.

The class seemed shocked because it doesn't seem very sophisticated to count on your fingers. I can think of a few friends who would never lower themselves to do such a thing. That doesn't bother me. Let's just get the job done.

Does anyone have any other applications of using your fingers to count, or experiences in doing this?

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