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Topic: Summer '96 Institute: Middle School Working Group
Replies: 29   Last Post: Jul 19, 1996 3:55 AM

 Messages: [ Previous | Next ]
 Eric Sasson Posts: 80 Registered: 12/3/04
Middle School Activities - We need help with:
Posted: Jul 18, 1996 7:34 PM

We need help with: On the flight from California to Philadelphia I was reading
a book,
"Pi in the Sky, Counting, Thinking and Being" by John D.
Barrow and from that I thought it would be interesting to
find out all
the different ways different people around the world use
their
hands to show counting.

I wrote my "keypal" Musumi Suzuki today the following
message:

*******
Dear Mutsumi,

Could you tell me how you count on your fingers in Japan? I
a book called "Pi in the Sky" and the author talks about
different
cultures using their hands to count. Some people show the
numbers 1
to 10 on their fingers by starting with the palm open and
others are
the opposite - they start with the palm closed. I started
thinking
that when I was in Germany they show "2" by extending the
thumb and
the index finger while American's typically extend the index
finger
and the middle finger to show "2".

So I am asking various "keypals" how they show numbers with
their
fingers. I just find it interesting. I am also curious
whether the
palm of the hand is facing or the back of the hand is facing
you
as they show the fingers representing the numbers.

Thank you,
Suzanne
********

This is his lovely reply:

********
To: salejan@empirenet.com
Cc: msuzuki@pse.che.tohoku.ac.jp
Subject: Re: Different counting methods
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 1996 12:03:40 +0900
From: Mutsumi Suzuki <msuzuki@eleph.pse.che.tohoku.ac.jp>

Dear Suzanne;

We Japanese start with open palm facing, and follows as;

one---> fold thumb
two----> thumb and index finger
three--> thumb, index finger and middle
...
five---> closed palm
six----> open little finger
seven--> little and ring finger
...
ten----> open palm.

To show two, we use extended index and middle fingers,
with back of hand facing me (palm side facing towards
the person to show the number).

To show five we use open palm (not closed, differs from the
above counting system).

Really interesting problem!
Mutsumi

********

My "help" question is that I would love help gathering more
data
on this question. The reason I find this of interest is that
I
have always thought it worthwhile to demonstrate to students
that "math" was not written (or invented!) by one person.
I like to get students engaged in thinking of the
development
of mathematics and why it has developed. I think the idea of
counting is such a basic concept and could be fun to use to
open a discussion on the development of mathematics.

If I receive a variety of answers as I am expecting,it would
make a fun Web page and possibly an activity.

Thank you ,
Suzanne

Date Subject Author
7/15/96 Sandy Sherman
7/15/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/15/96 Eric Sasson
7/15/96 Donald W. Smith
7/15/96 Eric Sasson
7/15/96 Sarah Seastone
7/15/96 Anne Wheelock
7/15/96 Cynthia Lanius
7/15/96 Denise Miller
7/15/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/15/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/15/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/15/96 Lou Talman
7/15/96 Anne D. Sandler
7/16/96 Donald W. Smith
7/16/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/16/96 Eric Sasson
7/16/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/16/96 Eric Sasson
7/17/96 Jean Abel
7/17/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/17/96 David Grant
7/18/96 Donald W. Smith
7/18/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/18/96 Suzanne Alejandre
7/18/96 Eric Sasson
7/18/96 Sarah Seastone
7/19/96 Denise Miller