F: Numbers and Numerals


These activities are also available in Romanian ro_ro and in Dutch 

F1: Find Your Number

Needed: find numbersSlips of paper with numerals written on them. Make only one with #1 on it; make two with #2 on them; three with #3 on them; four with #4 written on them; five with #5 written on them.


  1. Mix up the slips of paper. Give everyone a slip of paper. At the agreed upon signal, each person must find all the others with the same number written on their paper.
  2. After they have done this, count how many people are in each group. Is it the same as the number written on their slips of paper? If not, why not? (there weren’t enough people; someone was confused; one #4 was not taken . . ..)

Repeat as often as desired.

Variation: With a very small group, give out all the slips of paper. Instead of having everyone group themselves, have them lay the slips of paper out in the correct order, #1-5.

F2: Count at Home

Needed: A coloring sheet or poster with 1 baby, 2 buckets, 3 children working in the yard/garden, 4 friends, 5 sticks, etc. drawn on it.


Show the poster/coloring sheet to the group. Count each item (“1 baby”) and ask the name of the numeral in the mother tongue as well as the national language.

Variation 1:
Act out the situations on the poster. Someone plays “1 baby”; “2 buckets” are carried; “3 people” work in the garden, etc. Repeat the names of the numerals. Make mistakes (particularly in the mother tongue) and have the other group members correct you.

Variation 2: Have the group make the poster. Let them think up and draw #1, #2, #3, etc.

F3: Take Three Steps Forward

Needed: Room to move around; line on the floor or ground.


Activity: (known as “Mother, May I” in America):

  1. Everyone except one person stands behind the line. This person is “it” and stands far ahead of the group with his/her back to the rest of the group.
  2. He/she may say how many steps the group may take: 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5. The others take that many steps forward.
  3. The first one to touch the one in the front wins and becomes “it”.running 1

Variation 1: Those who take too many steps must go back to the beginning.

Variation 2: The person who is “it” may specify the type of step as well as the number of steps. For example: “1 giant step”, “3 baby steps”, “5 jumps”, “4 hops” or even “2 steps backwards”. Those who do not follow the directions must go back to the beginning.

F4: How Many Did You Hear?

Skills practiced: Listening and concentration; staying quiet; taking turns; counting.

Needed: Nothing extra.


  1. The group is very quiet. One person sits (or stands) in front with his/her eyes closed. The leader points to someone else who quietly walks to stand behind the one whose eyes are closed. Once she or he is there, the leader points to another person who has to do the same.
  2. The person with their eyes closed has to listen carefully to find out how many people are lining up behind them. This goes on until the desired number of people stands in the line. Then the one with his eyes closed may guess how many stand in the line behind him.
  3. Have the whole group count out loud. Did the one in front hear correctly?

More challenging version: Write the numbers on the board or on different pieces of paper. Instead of saying how many are behind him or her, the person with their eyes closed goes forward to pick the right number written on one of the cards. If he picks the right number, he receives a reward or a point. This can also be played as a competition between two teams.

F5: Run Like Crazy

Needed: Eight large pieces of paper with a different number of dots, 1-8, drawn on each one. COMMENT: This game is easier if the total number of dots equals the number of people in the group. For instance, if there are eight people, use three pieces of paper, one with one dot, one with three and one with four.


  1. Let the group carefully look at each piece of paper. Then lay the papers on the floor in different places in the classroom. Everybody stands in one place, far away from the drawings. At the signal (e.g. a whistle), everyone runs to a drawing of their choice. There they need to stand in a row.
  2. There need to be as many people in each row as there are dots on the drawing. If there are already too many people by one drawing, the rest have to run to other drawings. Once the row for a particular drawing is complete, the ones in that row sit on the ground. Let them count the people around each drawing. Is it correct?
  3. Once the group has practiced the game, it can be played with two teams. Use two series of drawings and divide the group into two teams. Which team finishes first?

F6: How Many Fit?How many fit

Needed: Circles on the floor or ground (e.g. hula hoops or circles taped on the floor with masking tape). A board, five large pieces of paper with one numeral (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) written on each one
OR the numbers written in circles on a sidewalk outside with chalk OR the numbers written with masking tape on the floor inside.


  1. Write a numeral on the board. Draw the correct number of dots after it. Discuss this so that everyone understands the link between the numeral and the number of dots.
  2. Put the circles on the ground or floor.
  3. At the agreed-upon signal (e.g. a whistle), everyone goes to stand in one of the circles. The number in each group must be the same as the number written on the board.
  4. Check if this is correct. Give praise for correct groupings.

Variation: If there are less than fifteen people in the whole group, have them lay the correct number of markers (buttons, stones, bottle caps…) in each circle instead of standing in the circles.

F7: See Your Favorite Number

Background: favorite number
Many cultures have a favored number. For example, in Western Europe “3” is favored. In traditional stories characters are granted 3 wishes, 3 brothers (not 4 or 5) try to woo the princess, the princess is given 3 good gifts… People tend to list things in 3’s and even have 3 meals per day. In many Native American cultures, however, “4” is favored, after the 4 points of the compass. Things in legends and traditional stories occur in 4’s rather than 3’s. People are often not consciously aware of their favored number, but using it might make lessons more interesting or acceptable, depending on the participant’s cultural background. For instance, in Western Europe the participants may pay more attention or remember more easily if you use examples involving the number 3 rather than 4.

Needed: Posters or chalk board with 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 dots drawn on them; piece of paper for everyone as well as something to draw with.


  1. Set the drawings of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 dots where everyone can see them.
  2. Ask everyone to stand in front of the number they like the best. Count how many people are in each row.
  3. For fun, have each row do something different. Have everyone in the longest row jump in the air as high as they can, one time for each dot. Next have the shortest row do something like turn around and touch their noses. Let them be creative. One row can think up what the next row should do. Link the number of times they jump or turn around to the number of dots they have chosen.
  4. Make a note to yourself of the number with the longest row. Later, check with other members of the community to see whether this number is important in their culture.

F8: Draw Your Favorite Number

Needed: A piece of paper for each person and something to write with.


  1. Have each person practice writing their favorite number. Together, find as many similarities between the shape of the numeral and things in their everyday life. For example, 1 looks like a stick; 8 like a pretzel they just ate . . . whatever they can imagine.
  2. Then have each person make a drawing next to the numeral of something that looks like or reminds them of the numeral. For example: 2 with a swan, a goose or a giraffe. They might also turn the number into a drawing (for instance, “9” is a girl with long curly hair . . .).

F8 Activity Video

F9: Hear Your Favorite Number

Needed: A traditional storyteller or story from the local culture; papers or cards for each person  with 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 written on them (or more, if higher numbers occur in the story). Each person might also need something to write with.


  1. The traditional storyteller tells a story in the mother tongue. Each time a number is used in the story, those listening hold up a card with that number on it. Note which number occurs most often.
  2. Have one of the listeners re-tell the story in the national language. This time, too, the others have to pay attention to the numbers occurring in the story and help count.
  3. How many brothers/sisters/birds/fishermen were there? How many times did the donkey take the wrong path?  How many beans were in the bag?
    If you wish, have the listeners draw features from the story with the corresponding numeral written on the paper: 7 swans, 4 bears, 3 flowers.

F10: Tag TrioTrio tag 1

Needed: Space to run around.

Activity:Trio tag 2

  1. One person stands in front: Number 1.
    Someone else holds his/her hand:  Number 2.
  2. Ask the group, how can we make 3 from this? Yes, another person will hold his/her other hand: Number 3.
    These three are “it”.
  3. Everyone else runs from one side of the playTrio tag 3 area to the other. The three holding hands try to tag them. The three must keep holding hands for the “tag” to count.
  4. Once everyone has been tagged, another three are chosen to be “it”.

Note: It is possible to do the same game with another number – a “culturally significant number” or whichever one you want to focus on.

F11: How Many Fingers?H5 b

Skills practiced: Recognizing numerals, counting, finger coordination.

Needed: A set of ten cards or papers with the numerals 1-10 written on them.


  1. Let everyone hold out their hands.
  2. We have two hands, with ten fingers. Ask the participants: “Can you lift one finger above the others? How about two?”
  3. Show one of the cards with a number on it. Then ask everyone to hold up the same number of fingers as the numeral on the card.
  4. Repeat until everyone knows how to recognize the numbers and numerals.

Note: Whenever using any gesture, even lifting one finger or counting with fingers, check ahead of time to make sure each gesture is culturally appropriate.

F12: Count the Sounds

Skills practiced: Counting, discerning differences in sounds, feeling, recognizing numerals.

Needed: Little stones, nuts or beads, and a hard surface to drop them on, so that it makes a sound; school board and chalk.

Activity:H2 a

  1. Have one person stand before the table with her/his eyes closed or with their back to it.
  2. Drop a stone on the table so it makes a clear sound.
  3. Drop another one, and another one.
  4. Have the others, including the person who has their eyes closed, count the stones as they drop. Ask them not to do this out loud!
  5. Afterwards, have the one in front feel the number of stones on the table to check whether or not she/he counted correctly.
  6. Then have her/him look at the table and count again. Did they have the correct count?
  7. Write the numerals on a board as the one in front says them, so the connection between recognizing and reading numerals begins.

 F13: Draw the Person

dice chart head May '18

Needed: A pair of dice; a piece of paper and pencil for each person; a chart of what to draw.


  1. Everyone takes turns throwing the dice. What they roll determines what part of the person they get to draw on their paper. The first one to finish the drawing “wins”, though everyone is praised.
  2. At each roll of the dice, the entire group will say out loud what needs to be drawn. These are drawn in the order that the number is rolled. So, for instance, someone may roll 6 and draw hair before they roll 2 and draw the head.
  • Two dots – the head
  • Three dots – a pair of eyes
  • Four dots – a pair of ears
  • Five – a mouth and a nose
  • Six – the hair
  • Seven – the trunk of the body
  • Eight – the arms
  • Nine – the hands
  • Ten – the legs
  • Eleven – feet
  • Twelve – an entire human (head with eyes, ears, hair, mouth; arms, hands, legs, feet).

Make a rule for rolling the same number more than once. Either agree that if the same number is rolled, they draw that same thing again. The drawing might end up with six heads! This is okay. OR agree that if they get a number they have already had, they draw nothing and lose that turn.

Variation 1: Instead of everybody making their own drawing, the entire group makes the drawing on the board or a large sheet of paper. Take turns rolling the dice and drawing the part of the body indicated. Or the leader can be the “artist”, making sure that the drawing is humorous rather than very artistic.

Variation 2: Divide the group into two teams. Rather than everybody making their own drawing, each team does a drawing. People from each team take turns rolling the dice and doing the drawing for their team. Make sure everyone has a turn by going clock-wise around the circle, for instance. Have the teams take turns as well (first one team, then the other team and so on). This will increase the fun.

Variation 3: For each team, have a set of cards (slips of paper) with the numerals on them. After the dice are rolled, someone from each team must lift up the card with the correct numeral written on it. Even if it is not his or her team’s turn to draw, the team which is the first to lift the correct card may draw the part of the body part linked with that number. The team that’s the first to draw the entire body, wins.

Variation 4: If dice are not available or, for some other reason, cannot be used, make two sets of 6 cards or slips of paper with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 dots on them and put them in a box or basket. Take turns pulling out two slips of paper.

F14: Feel How Manyguess how many rocks 1

Skills practiced: Feeling, counting, recognizing numerals, working together.

Needed: 10 little stones (other small objects, like buttons, may be used instead as long as each one is different), large place to write on like a board, and chalk.


  1. Have someone stand before you with his or her eyes closed.guess how many rocks 2
  2. Put some stones in her or his right hand and some in the left hand. Let them feel how many; have him or her count them.
  3. Have them say the number.
  4. Write the numeral for this number where everyone can see it. Have the person with the stones open his or her eyes and check to see whether he/she counted correctly.
  5. Then have the person examine the stones thoroughly and describe one stone. (For example: one little sharp, white stone with a brown upper side; or one smooth, round, grey stone; or one stone found in the backyard of the grandmother.) Teach the players to be precise in their descriptions.guess how many rocks 3 H1
  6. Then do the game again, with a different number of stones and a different person. When the game is understood by everyone, let them play it in pairs of two.
  7. Stimulate the joy of getting it right.


F15: Counting with Animals

H count animals a

Skills practiced: Vocabulary; describing textures and shapes; counting; drawing – fine motor skills.

Needed: Each person should have a large sheet of paper, divided into 10 spaces by folding or drawing lines; pen or pencil.


  1. Talk about something which an animal has just one of (a tail, a mouth, a nose). Have each person think of an animal. Have everyone say which animal they have chosen. Discuss the different shapes of tails (or mouths or . . .). Use words like hairy, soft, long, short, etc.
  2. Hand out the sheets of paper. Have each person draw the animal they thought of in space number 1. Make sure each drawing gets a lot of praise.
  3.  Then think of an animal that has two of something (wings, antlers, bird legs), or think of something that an animal has two of (ears, eyes, wings, legs of a bird). Repeat the discussion above. Have each person draw this animal in space number 2.
  4. As you go along, write the numerals 1, 2, etc. where everyone can see them.

Three (ears? Oh, no, what does an animal have 3 of? Nothing?) Draw a fantasy animal with three . . . H count animals

5. Show the drawings to each other, give compliments on creativity, have fun. Here are some possible examples:

  • Four – legs of a dog
  • Five – perhaps the same as three?
  • Six – legs of an insect
  • Seven – same as three?
  • Eight – legs of a spider)
  • Nine – same as three?
  • Ten – draw an animal with 10 spots on its fur

6. Write each person’s name on their drawing or let them put a special mark on the paper to identify their own drawing. These can be used in F16: Matching Numbers.

F16: Matching NumbersH4c

Skills practiced: Recognizing numerals, counting, concentration.

Needed for each person:

  1. A set of ten cards (or pieces of paper) with 1 to 10 written on them;
  2. About 55 stones (or nuts, shells, buttons…) to use as markers;
  3. The papers from last lesson with 10 animals drawn on them.


  1. Have each person place the right numeral on the right drawing of the animals, for instance the 6 on the drawing with the six-legged insect.
  2. Give everyone a handful of markers (small stones or wads of paper). Let them put the same amount of markers under or on the drawing and numeral, i.e. one stone by #1; 2 stones by #2, etc.
  3. During the process, walk around to give help and praise.