Six Easy Steps to Number Recognition

Six Easy Steps to Number Recognition

by : Todd Crosner and Matt Powers
posted on : 11/13/2012

How counting numbers can lead to better math scores

As a parent, we often wonder what we can do to prepare our children for future success. In math, success starts with number recognition. The better your child becomes at recognizing numbers, the more confident they will become in math.  Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do as a parent to develop this precious skill.

Here are 6 Easy Steps to Number Recognition that have been proven to work quickly and effectively, time and time again.

Step 1 – Number order

First, teach your child the proper order of the first 20 numbers. Many parents sing the ABCs to their children to teach the order of the English alphabet. Why not sing the 123s? The 123 song is sung to the ABC tune and goes like this:

“1-2-3-4-5-6-7…8-9-10-11 and 12… 13-14-15-16…17-18-19-20… now I know my 123s, next time won’t you count with me.”

**Did you know that the ABC song is sung to the same tune as the popular nursery rhymes “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep?”

The next thing to do is to bring the song to a physical representation. Number boards are very useful in this regard,

especially for young children. A number board is a wooden or plastic cut-out board with numbers, usually ranging from 0 to 9, which can be easily removed and put back into place.

A good number board also shows pictures of objects which can be counted. This enhances memory of each respective number. For example, when you lift up the number 7, you may see 7 birds. Have your child count the birds and say “7 birds.”

Step 2 – Place value

Number boards have an additional practical use that you may not have considered. By manipulating more than one number at a time, you can teach your child place value.


For example, grab the 4 and the 7 pegs, and ask your child “What number do they make together? Say “47” with your child. Then switch the numbers, now they make 74. As your child’s confidence grows, try 3 and 4 digit numbers.





Step 3 – Reading and writing numbers

It’s a shame how many children do not write legibly. You can improve your child’s penmanship with practice. As little as 10 minutes a day, a couple times a week will yield impressive results. Start by writing one digit numbers, then gradually build up to two and three digits numbers, and so forth. Using worksheets like these can be a huge time-saver:


Writing numbers 1 through 4

Writing numbers 5 through 8

Writing numbers 9 through 12

 “CLICK AN IMAGE” to download PDF

Step 4 – Teaching your children to count on their fingers

Most of us have been blessed with ten fingers and toes. Counting with our fingers therefore is a perfectly normal and natural way to learn math. In fact, nearly every civilization that uses the Base-10 (decimal) system probably uses it for the simple reason that we have ten fingers.

Unfortunately, many parents are uncomfortable with their child using their fingers to count. They think it gives the impression that their child is slow at math and also that it is socially unappealing. Some teachers foolishly dictate a rule that finger counting can not be used in their class, and then they try to replace it with counting dots or Xs. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, when you are teaching your child to count on their fingers, count with them on yours.

Step 5 – Teach your children to love counting

Children naturally love counting things. Counting provides a positive, friendly math experience which should be encouraged by all parents and grandparents. The earlier they start the better. make

It doesn’t really matter what they are counting: M&Ms, jellybeans, beads, blocks. Or how about counting coins? Counting nickels, dimes, and quarters makes great skip counting practice for counting by 5s, 10s, and 25s.

Step 6 – How many fingers do I have up?

Many children can not easily recognize finger counts above five. This drill will help your child overcome this obstacle. Hold up different amounts of your fingers, on two hands, from one to all ten, and have your child tell you how many fingers you are holding up.

The finger drill stimulates your child’s visual learning by connecting a number you are teaching – For example, the number 8, with 8 fingers. At the same time, this drill aids your child in basic addition; for example, 5 fingers + 3 three fingers = 8 fingers; thus 5 + 3 = 8.

Practice often until your child recognizes the finger pattern without counting any fingers.


Number recognition and place value form the foundation for all levels of math. Children who master these concepts at an early age have a considerable advantage. These young students are charting a course toward confidence and leadership, while spending quality time with you. This provides you with an opportunity to build a parent/child teaching relationship that will last a lifetime.  Now that’s a “win-win”!

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