While using your fingers isn't the fastest way to recall a multiplication fact while doing a problem, finger math tricks can help kids figure out how to answer the problem at hand — and as they work on their math, they will eventually learn all the facts by repetition.
Note that before your child can understand other finger tricks, they must be able to count by 2s, 5s, and 10s and multiply by 2s, 3s, and 4s.
Quick Finger Math Tricks for Threes and Fours
The tricks for multiplying by threes and fours are really a matter of counting out the answer on your fingers. As your children count out the answer repeatedly, they'll memorize it and then be able to move on to larger numbers.
Multiplying by Three
Did you realize that all of your fingers have three segments? Therefore, you can figure out anything from 3 x 1 to 3 x 10 by counting the segments on each finger. To start:
- Hold up the number of fingers you're going to multiply by 3. For example, if the problem is 3 x 4 — hold up four fingers.
- Count each segment on each finger you're holding up, and you should come up with 12 — which is the correct answer.
Multiplying by Four
Multiplying by four is the same as multiplying by two — twice. To start:
- Hold up the number of fingers to correspond with the number you are multiplying by four. For example, if you are multiplying 4 x 6 — hold up six fingers.
- Count each finger by two, moving from left to right. Then count each finger again, continuing to count by twos, until you've counted every finger twice.
To keep track of the fingers you've counted twice, sometimes it's easier to put your finger down as you count the first time, and back up as you count the second time.
Finger Math Tricks for Multiplying by 6, 7, 8, and 9
While numbers one through five are easy for most kids to remember, six and up often pose a problem. This handy trick will make it a little easier to work those problems out.
Multiplying 6, 7, 8, and 9 by Hand
To begin, assign each finger a number. For example, your thumbs represent 6, your index fingers each represent 7, etc. This will remain the same throughout the finger math hack.
Your left hand will represent the first number that you are multiplying and your right hand will represent the second number you are multiplying. In this example, we are multiplying 7 x 8.
To Determine the Part of Your Answer:
- On your left hand, put down the finger that represents the number you are multiplying as well as any fingers whose number value is less than this figure. In this example, you are multiplying 7 x 8, so the left hand will represent 7. You will drop your index finger (number 7) and your thumb (number 6).
- Similarly, the right hand will represent eight, so you will drop down your middle finger (number 8), your index finger (number 7), and your thumb (number 6).
- Now, just multiply the fingers that are still pointed upwards. In this case, you will have three fingers on your left hand and two on your right, so you will multiply 3 x 2 to get 6. This is the first part of your answer!
To Determine the Second Part of Your Answer:
- Keeping your fingers in the same positions, count how many fingers are folded down. In the 7 x 8 example, you should have five fingers folded.
- You will count each of these in quantities of ten. So, 10, 20, 30, 40, 50.
- 50 is your answer.
To Determine Your Final Answer:
- Add your two numbers together. In this example, you would add 6 + 50, which gives you 56!
Another Finger Math Trick Just for Nine
There is a trick that works separately, just for multiplying by the number nine.
- To start, hold up all ten fingers, with your palms facing you.
- Assign each finger a number, starting with your left-hand thumb and ending with your right-hand thumb. The left-hand thumb will be one, the left-hand index finger will be two, and so on until you reach the number 10 for your right-hand thumb.
- To tackle a problem, put down the corresponding finger of the number you're multiplying by nine. For example, if you are multiplying 9 x 8, you'd put down the eighth finger (which will be on your right hand).
- Count all the fingers to the left of the finger you have folded down. This will give you 7. This is the first digit of your answer.
- Count all the fingers to the right of the finger you have folded down. This will give you 2. This is the second digit of your answer.
- Put the numbers together! Your answer is 72.
Finger Multiplication Tricks Can Make Math Easy and Fun
While the hope is that your kids will eventually memorize their multiplication charts, using some quick hand tricks for multiplication and letting them count things out on their fingers is not a bad way to learn. It keeps frustration at bay since the answer is always a fingertip away, and the repetition of having to figure it out will help cement those facts into their brains.