Easy Finger Math Tricks

Valorie Delp
child counting fingers

While using your fingers is not the fastest way to recall a multiplication fact while doing a problem, finger 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. It should be noted that before your child can understand other finger tricks, he must be able to count by 2s, 5s and 10s and multiply by 2s, 3s, and 4s.

Quick Tricks for 3s and 4s

The tricks for multiplying by 3s and 4s is really a matter of counting out the answer on your fingers. As your children count out the answer repeatedly, they will memorize it and then be able to move onto larger numbers.

Multiplying by Three

Did you realize that all of your fingers have three segments? Therefore, you can figure out anything from 3x1 to 3x10 by counting the segments on each finger. To start:

  1. Hold up the number of fingers you're going to multiply by 3. For example, if the problem is 3x4 - hold up four fingers.
  2. 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:

  1. Hold up the number of fingers to correspond with the number you are multiplying by 4. For example, if you are multiplying 4 x 6 - hold up six fingers.
  2. Count each finger by 2, moving from left to right. Then count each finger again, continuing to count by 2s, until you've counted every finger twice.

Hint - To keep track of what 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.

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 much easier to work those problems out.

Multiplying 6, 7, 8 and 9 by Hand

  1. To begin, assign each finger a number. Your thumbs represent 6, your index fingers each represent 7, etc.
  2. Next, put each finger down including the numbers you are multiplying. So for example, if you are multiplying 8 x 7, you'd put down the thumb, forefinger and middle finger on the left hand, and the thumb and forefinger on the right hand.
  3. To start, multiply the fingers that are up. In the 8 x 7 example, you'd have two fingers up on the right hand, and three fingers up on the left hand. Multiply 2 x 3 to get 6. This is your one's place digit.
  4. Then count each number that's down by 10. In 8 x 7, you should have a total of five fingers down - so you get a total of 50.
  5. Add your two numbers together, and you should get 56, which is indeed the answer to 8 x 7.

Another Trick Just for Nine

There is a trick that works separately, just for multiplying by nine.

  1. To start, hold up all ten fingers, with your palms facing you.
  2. Assign each finger a number, starting with your left 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 pinky.
  3. To tack a problem put down the corresponding finger of the number you're multiplying by nine. For example, if you are multiplying 9 x 7, you'd put down the seventh finger (which will be on your right hand).
  4. Count all the fingers to the right of the down finger by 10s. In this case, you'd get 60.
  5. Count all the fingers to the left of the down finger by 1s. In this case, you'd get 3.
  6. Do not count the finger that is down at all. Your answer is 63.

Multiplying by Fingers

While the hope is that your kids will eventually memorize their multiplication facts, using some quick tricks 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 in their brains.

If you need help downloading any of the printables, check out these helpful tips.

Easy Finger Math Tricks