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Handy count and Phone count

Posted By: Nack Ballard
Date: Monday, 9 June 2014, at 8:50 a.m.

In Response To: Remembering 1 Number while calc the 2th (Sebastiaan Kuijs)

I'm not clever enough to transfer color illustrations into an html environment, but here is a rough draft of a part of a chapter of a pipcount book I wrote in the year 1999 or 2000, that I never published:

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........The Handy Count

A full count consists of counting one color of checkers, then counting the other color, and then comparing them. But suppose you have just finished counting Black. How do you remember that count, while putting your full attention on counting the White checkers?

Well, you can hope the Black count is still in your short-term memory when you finish counting the White side. To make this more likely, you can connect it to another meaning. For example, if the count is 124, you might notice that reversing it to 421 reminds you of your daughter’s birthday, April 21st (4/21).

There is no guarantee, though, it will work. You may be unable to find a connection, or confuse it with a count done a few moves earlier. At the least, the process will slow you down and be a cause of unnecessary concern. In an informal survey, I recently discovered that forgetting the first player’s count happens to people fairly often!

The solution I knew, though had never used, is to hold one finger by the traditional 12 point, and another by the 4 point, to represent 124. This scheme seemed neither subtle nor comfortable, so last year I created the “Handy Count”, using standard sign language numbers. It turns out that mathemagician Art Benjamin created the identical method, but a decade earlier! (“Rule of Thumb” — Flint Area Backgammon News, Oct. 1990).

........[Illustrations of 1 to 5 fingers extended]

...1 ...2 ...3 ...4 ...5

The Handy Count is easy to use: Fingers in the left hand keep track of the second-to-last (tens) digit, while the fingers of the right hand track the last (ones) digit. If the count is 124, extend 2 fingers of your left hand, and 4 fingers of your right hand (ignore the first digit). Rest your hands on your thighs, or wherever is comfortable.

........[Illustrations of 1 to 4 fingers extended, with thumb touching each of the four fingers in turn, then fist]

...6 ...7 ...8 ...9 ...0

6, 7, 8 or 9 is indicated by touching the thumb to the pinky, ring, middle or index finger, respectively, as shown. (The last frame is actually 10, but for our purposes, anything resembling a fist will do for “0”). Feel free to try alternate finger placements, as you like.

........Hold-the-Phone Count

........1...2...3

........4...5...6

........7...8...9

.............0

More recently, I have experimented with a way of remembering counts that I like equally well. I call it the “Hold-the-Phone” Count. The idea is to grid-number the top of each thigh like a telephone keypad.

........[Illustration of numbered areas on thigh]

........1...2...3

........4...5...6

........7...8...9

.......0....or....0

Rest the entire hand, including the fingers, but position it with the base of the palm in one of the spots marked 1 to 9 on top of the thigh. At 1, 2 or 3, the fingers actually curve around the knee.

For 0, the hand is on or near the hip.

For a two-digit count, the left thigh keeps the 10’s digit, and the right thigh keeps the 1’s digit. I often find this more comfortable, and faster than the Handy Count, both to position, and to tactilely read later when the count is to be recalled.

........Combining Handy and Hold-the-Phone Counts

If you prefer to keep the two-digit count on only one hand, OR need to keep track of two two-digit numbers while counting a third (examples next page), you can combine methods. In this case, the positioning of the hand on the thigh (Hold-the-Phone) keep the 10’s digit, and the fingers of the same hand (Handy) keep the 1’s digit.

In the illustration below, the base of the left palm is positioned at the “5” spot of the left thigh, and there are 3 fingers extended, indicating a count of 53 (or 153) with the left hand alone. With similar logic, the right hand alone indicates a count of 31 (or 131).

........[Illustration of 3 fingers on 5 area of left thigh, and 1 finger on 3 area of right thigh]

........[Counting example, another page or two]

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Hope that helps.

Nack

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