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Teaching Children How To Write Numerals

Updated on June 2, 2014

Writing numbers correctly is an important skill for young children to learn

Numbers play an important role in many parts of our lives. I could begin naming some areas in which numbers are critical, but I know that is not necessary, as numbers are all around us. When children start to notice numbers and are learning to recognize the numerical symbols for each number, it is time to teach them how to correctly form each number. This is important to learn because we use numbers all the time to denote amounts.

When numeral formation is not learned correctly, the amounts being designated will not be accurate. For example, if a child sloppily writes a 1 or a 7, the amount intended could be confused. This would apply to a 3 and an 8, for example, or a 2 and a 5.

The easiest and most effective way to teach children to write numbers

tracing number worksheets
tracing number worksheets

The best way to learn to form numbers is by tracing them. Tracing numbers worksheets show a child the correct numeral formation and also use arrows to show the correct direction to make each stroke. Learning to write numbers correctly takes practice and lots of repetition. The number tracing sheets provide many opportunities for children to practice while seeing the correct formation.

When introducing your child to the number tracing sheets, ask him first to use the pointer finger of his dominant (writing) hand to trace the number. Remind him to pay attention to the direction of each stroke as well as to when to lift his finger and when to keep his finger on the page. After several "finger tracings" on the page, let your child try to trace the number using a pencil. Be sure to watch your child as he holds the pencil to be sure that he is using the proper pincer grip.

If the whole page of numbers seems overwhelming to your child, feel free to fold the page so that only one line shows at a time. Or make several copies of the page so you can cut out one or two rows of numbers to be traced.

When your child completes a worksheet, put the date on it and save it. He will be able to look at his previous work and marvel at his skill development.

Other fun activities to encourage proper numeral writing

Try these engaging activities at home to encourage and reinforce proper number writing.

- Put shaving cream or pudding on a flat cookie sheet and ask your child to use the pointer finger of his dominant hand to "write" the numbers. You can show him the tracing sheets to remind him of the proper formation and direction of the strokes.

- Write each number with a bold permanent marker on a piece of fine sandpaper. Ask your child to use his pointer finger once more to trace the numbers.

- Ask your child to use his finger to trace over foam or plastic numbers to become familiar with the number formations.

- Try writing the numbers on white paper using a pink or blue highlighter. Then give your child a yellow highlighter and ask him to trace the numbers. The color will change from pink to orange or from blue to green if he is tracing the numbers accurately!

- Carefully using a liquid white school glue, "write" the numbers on pieces of cardboard and allow the glue to harden. This forms a raised number for your child to trace over with his finger. (You may need to add several layers of glue to get the raised effect that your child can feel.)

- To reinforce the formation and amount that each numeral signifies, write each number on an index card. Then give your child some pincer grip practice along with some counting and number recognition practice. Ask him to use his pointer finger and thumb to pick up small pieces of cereal or small beads and count out the appropriate amount to be placed next to each number card.

- To reinforce the formation of the numbers, your child could use his pincer grip to take circular paper reinforcers or small dot stickers (found at office supply stores) to cover numbers. Write each number in a large, bold way on a piece of paper. Then ask your child to place the circles or dots on the line to form a fancy number!

- For practice helping your child develop important fine motor skills, consider using tracing worksheets.

Good handwriting skills will last a lifetime

So give your child time to practice writing all the numbers


Tips for teaching children proper number formation

The number 0: A proper 0 is really just a nice, tall oval. It's generally an easy number for children to write. Just help show your child how it's slightly thinner than an uppercase O and encourage him to make sure he starts and stops writing in the same spot to get a smooth, unbroken oval.

The number 1: The simplest number of all, this one is just a straight line down. Encourage your child to make the line as vertical as possible and to not let it "lean" to one side.

The number 2: Some people like to write this number with a fancy loop at the bottom. That's certainly fine, although loops are generally more challenging for young children to execute than straight lines. So I recommend teaching your child how to make a nice curve at the top (like the top of a candy cane) then to simply give the number a flat bottom.

The number 3: This number is a mirror-image number where the top and bottom halves are identical. Ask your child to write one "backwards C" and then, without picking up his pencil, write another "backwards C."

The number 4: This number can be written in a number of different ways (beginning at the bottom and writing it in one continuous stroke, beginning at the top and having all right angles, or beginning at the top but using different angles so the top of the number looks like a point of a triangle). When teaching young children to write this number, I think it's easiest to encourage them to write all right angles, so the lines are either horizontal or vertical (and never moving diagonally). Have your child write an uppercase L then pick up and his pencil, go back to the top and draw the long vertical line downward to complete the number.

The number 5: A sloppy 5 can look a lot like a letter S, so it's important to help your child make strong, straight lines at the top of the number. One straight line across, one straight line down, and then a nice big curve. Many adults I know write this letter by writing the vertical line and the curve and then lifting their pencil to add the "top" to the number. While this may work for adults, it is difficult for children to lift their pencil and then set it down again in exactly the right spot, so I suggest teaching your child to write this number in one continuous motion.

The number 6: The trick to writing this number is making sure you start with your pencil in the upper right corner of the line. Children typically like to start in the upper left corner, which leads to a properly formed number that's written in reverse! Show your child how to make a nice big curve (almost like he's writing the uppercase Letter C) and then to curve back upwards to add a nice circle at the bottom of the number.

The number 7: With just two parts to this number, it's generally an easy one for children to write. Have your child draw a first line totally horizontally and to the right before suddenly changing direction to draw the downward, diagonal line that completes the number.

The number 8: Some children are taught the "double circle" method of writing this number where a child draws one circle, lifts up his pencil and then draws a second circle directly on top of the first one. As I wrote earlier, I think having children lift their pencil off the paper is risky since it is sometimes difficult for children to place their pencil back down on the correct spot. Because of this, I suggest teaching your child to write the number 8 in one fluid movement. While the loops and directional changes are difficult, practice with a number tracing worksheet will help your child learn to write his number. In my experience, children love the different loops and the smoothness of this number and will be eager to master it.

The number 9: I like to tell children to think about this as a ball and a bat... First ask your child to draw a small circle to represent the ball. Then, without lifting up his pencil, ask him to draw the bat, which will extend downwards.

writing numbers
writing numbers

Assess your child's fine motor skills

Before introducing your child to proper number writing, you may want to assess his general fine motor skills, since strong fine motor skills (and a strong pincer grip, in particular) are critical for properly writing each number.

To help you understand your child's existing fine motor skill level, consider completing a basic kindergarten readiness test that includes questions relating to writing and fine motor control. The fine motor section of an assessment will introduce you to a variety of fine motor skills your child should likely be able to complete by the time he or she starts kindergarten (such as holding eating utensils correctly or properly using tweezers) and will give you a nice sense of your child's existing skill set. Once you are sure your child has strong fine motor skills, he will be poised to quickly learn how to properly write each number.

If your child's fine motor skills are not yet fully developed, consider working with your child on some kindergarten worksheets that focus on tracing lines, shapes and curves. Once your child can successfully trace these lines and shapes, he will be ready to write more complicated things - like numbers! :)

Thanks so much for stopping by!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on helping children learn to write numbers

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    • profile image

      Maribeth Shannon 

      3 years ago

      Thank you for this amazing share. The online homeschool writing resources offers many advantages. Find time to do some research about it.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I learned something here. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • blessedmomto7 profile image


      8 years ago

      Very cool. I have some kids that are really helped by those squishy things you put on the pencil to improve the grip.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image


      8 years ago

      The sensory activities can be helpful indeed. SquidAngel blessings!


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