## Friday, January 13, 2012

Just like we do, the Romans counted on their fingers. The Roman numerals I, V and X are NOT letters. They may look like letters... but they are not! They are symbols for fingers of the hand and/or for notches made on sticks (compare our tally system of IIII with the fifth mark being a diagonal through the group, and then starting a new group of five next to it). So, you can think about it this way: I is one finger
II is two fingers
III is three fingers
IIII is four fingers
V can be seen as five fingers (a schematic outline view of "V" made by a hand with all fingers extended; see below - it just looks like the letter V)
X is two sets of five, one above and one below (it just looks like the letter X, but it's really two Vs, one up and one down)
The use of "IV" to indicate 4 came later, and IIII continued to be used as a representation of the number 4 (it makes sense, doesn't it?).

Now learn how to multiple numbers 5 and higher using finger counting! Here is an illustrated guide to the Roman counting game which lets you multiply numbers 5-9 on your fingers. Showing the numbers 1, 2, 3, or 4 with your fingers is easy; you just hold up that number of fingers. To be able to do this trick, you also need to know how to show the numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9 with ONE HAND ONLY, being able to show those numbers with either your left or your right hand. Here is how it goes: