A student’s early abilities to recognize numbers and understand what they represent very much depend on their exposure to these ideas at home and school. They develop gradually with increased practice connecting verbal and written symbols with each other and with concrete mathematical situations.
In kindergarten, children are working on recognizing and writing numerals in three key ways:
- Constructing mental images of numerals
- Connecting a numeral with the quantity it represents, and
- Writing numerals to intentionally convey meaning
A big part of recognizing and writing numerals is knowing what they look like. Many numerals look really similar (e.g., 6 and 9), so it’s helpful for students to construct mental images of them. For example, if we look at the number 3, we might describe it by saying it’s made up of two little curves. Or, for the number 8, we could say it looks like a snowman.
Once students are able to recognize a numeral and know its name, they can begin to connect it to the quantity it represents. For example, when a child sees a group of soccer balls (five of them), he’s able to connect the numeral 5 to them.
Finally, after students know what numerals look like, and understand that they each represent a certain quantity, they’ll begin to work on the third concept: Writing numerals to intentionally convey meaning. Play the video below to see a student writing a numeral to record the result of counting objects.
When students are first learning to write numbers, they might write some backwards, like 7 and 9, but, with support and repetition, they’ll eventually learn how to form all of the numerals correctly.
By the end of kindergarten, students have really progressed in their ability to recognize and write numbers! They are typically able to read, write, and represent numbers from 0 through 20 and associate those numerals with a quantity (VA K SOLs).
How can you support students to recognize and write numerals?
Provide multiple representations of numbers:
You can support a students’ ability to recognize numerals by providing multiple representations of a number. For a given quantity, provide the numeral and a set of objects or a set of images that corresponds to the quantity. When students can see these different representations, it highlights that numerals aren’t random symbols, but that they’re meaningful and represent different quantities.
Here are a two specific activities that you can do with students that involve providing multiple representations of numbers.
Activity 1: Number chart
- Create a number chart that includes: a) a pictorial representation of each number, b) the numeral, and c) the written number word.
- Create cards with different numbers of objects.
- Ask students to match the cards with the correct numbers on the number chart.
- For students who need more of a challenge, you can use larger numbers and cover the written number words, provide those on cards, and ask students to place the number words in the correct places on the number chart.
Activity 2: Play Hopscotch!
As spring and warmer weather approach, you can also incorporate recognizing numerals into a fun game of Hopscotch!
- Point out a numeral on a hopscotch board.
- Ask a student what numeral you are pointing to and have the student jump (or do another body movement) that many times.
- For some challenge, use the written number words instead of the numeral.
In our comprehensive guide focused on numerals, you can find many more strategies and activities to support your students’ numeracy skills.
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