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Writing Numerals to Five

Number and Operations
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

As students construct groups of a given size, recognize the number in the group, and record that number in numerals, they learn the number words through 5 in order (namely, to rote count), and develop the ability to count rationally.

Display the numeral card for 5, and ask students to look at the numeral card you have displayed. Review with the students how to make the numeral by turning your back to the class (so you will be writing in the same orientation as the students) and tracing the figure in the air with large strokes. Then encourage the students to do it with you.

pdficonNumeral Cards 

To make the number 0, the following verse can be sung to the tune of Here We Go 'Round the Mulberry Bush:

Start at the top and go around,
    go around,
    go around.
Start at the top and go around,
    to make the number 0.

You might wish to play the Numerals Jam for your students. The Numerals Jam, created by Johnette "Ms. Sunshine" Roberts, Baton Rouge, LA, is a funky student version of this song.

appicon Numerals Jam 

The lyrics for all ten verses of this song can be used to foster the ability to make the numerals up to 10.

0 Start at the top and go around [repeat two more times]
to make the number 0.
1 Start at the top and go straight down [repeat two more times]
to make the number 1.
2 Halfway round and then straight out [repeat two more times]
to make the number 2.
3 Halfway round and halfway round [repeat two more times]
to make the number 3.
4 Down and out and then straight down [repeat two more times]
to make the number 4.
5 Down, around, then make a hat [repeat two more times]
to make the number 5.
6 Down, around, then close the loop [repeat two more times]
to make the number 6.
7 Go across and then slant down [repeat two more times]
to make the number 7.
8 Make an "S," then go right back [repeat two more times]
to make the number 8.
9 Go around and then go down [repeat two more times]
to make the number 9.

The following are suggested activities that you may wish to do with students to help them practice writing numerals.

Suggestions for Numeral Writing Practice 

Here are a few suggestions of fun and different ways to practice numeral writing with you students. 

  1. Allow students to write the numerals on a friend's back.
  2. Encourage students to draw the numerals at the easel using a large brush with paint or water.
  3. Provide giant markers and newsprint so students can make large copies of the model numerals.
  4. Invite students to mold the numerals with clay, cookie dough, or pipe cleaners.
  5. Encourage students to draw the numerals in chocolate pudding or shaving cream.
  6. Suggest that students write the numeral with roll-on cologne on a friend's arm.
  7. Ask students to form the numerals with yarn.
  8. Have them glue popcorn kernels or small pieces of pasta on a tracing of the numeral.
  9. Have them sing the song above to help them remember the numbers.

Now show the students a box cover in which you have placed some rice or play sand. Put the numeral card for "5" next to the container. Ask them to watch you as you draw a 5 in the sand tray. Then encourage several other students to draw a 5. (Throughout this unit, each new numeral should be written in this way. To facilitate practice, you may wish to make the sand or rice tray available in the classroom throughout the week.)

To help students develop an understanding of rational counting, give each student a copy of the Ten Frame Activity Sheet and a supply of connecting cubes. Ask the students to model the number you show by placing one cube in each section in the 10 Frame, beginning at the smiley face and moving in the direction the arrow is pointing, until the top row is full.

pdficon Ten Frame Activity Sheet 

Display a numeral card, and observe the students as they place the connecting cubes. Ask them to remove the cubes before they model the next number. You may wish to have the students write on a separate piece of paper each number they model in the "10" Frame.

1620 10frame make4

Students may also use the Ten Frame Tool to explore numbers up to 10.

appicon Ten Frame Tool 

Next, distribute the Steps to 10 Activity Sheet. This activity sheet will help the students see the relationship between the numbers in a different way.

pdficon Steps to 10 Activity Sheet 

Invite those who are able to write their names to do so at the top of the sheet. When the whole class is ready, ask the students to choose one crayon and put a finger on the column with "2" at the top. Then tell them to color in two boxes in that column, starting with the bottom row. Demonstrate this and circulate as they work, encouraging them to count aloud softly as they color the boxes. Then ask them to show the meaning of the other numbers from 0 through 5 in the same way. Collect the charts so they will be available for the next six lessons.

1620 5 steps figure

So that students can record their learning, provide each with a copy of Showing Sets of 5 and one crayon.

pdficon Showing Sets of 5 Activity Sheet 

Ask them to color up to five boxes in each row and write how many they colored under the row of five boxes. Encourage them to share what they have done with the class. Encourage the students to take these sheets home to share with their family. Finally, as a home activity, ask the students to look for objects at home that they can find in sets of two, three, four, or five [bicycle wheels, plates at the table, pairs of shoes].


  • Baratta-Lorton, Mary. Mathematics Their Way. Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley, 1974.
  • Burton, Grace M. Towards a Good Beginning: Teaching Early Childhood Mathematics. Menlo Park, Calif.: Addison-Wesley, 1985.

Assessment Options 

  1. Use the teacher resource sheet, Class Notes, to document your observations about the students' abilities to do the following:
    • Construct groups of zero to five objects
    • Identify and write the numerals 0 through 5
     pdficon  Class Notes 
  2. Have students write numerals and represent the corresponding quantities in pictorial form on the Show That Number Activity Sheet.


Rather than an extension, it is recommended that you move on to the next lesson in the unit, Building Sets of Six.


Questions for Students 

You may wish to use the numeral cards 0 through 5 in random order for the following questions, asking each question several times.
1. What numbers did we talk about today?

[We talked about the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.]

2. Can you write this number?

3. How did you show this number on your chart? Did everyone show it the same way?

[Possible answers: I colored the boxes red. I colored the boxes blue. I made the boxes purple.]

4. Where on the chart is the number that shows how many fingers I am holding up? Can you point to the number as you say it?

5. Pick a number. Can you show me that many fingers?

Teacher Reflection 

  • Which students were able to stay on task when they worked independently? What experiences do they need to help them do this?
  • Which students could count by rote to five? What additional experiences are necessary for those who could not?
  • Which students are able to count rationally to five?
  • Which students could identify the numerals to 5?
  • What adjustments will I make the next time that I teach this lesson?
Number and Operations

Building Numbers to Five

In this lesson, students make groups of zero to 5 objects, connect number names to the groups, compose and decompose numbers, and use numerals to record the size of a group. Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities are used to help students begin to acquire a sense of number.
BuildingSetsOfSix ICON
Number and Operations

Building Sets of Six

In this lesson, students construct sets of six, compare them with sets of a size up to six objects, and write the numeral 6. They also show a set of six on a "10" Frame and on a recording chart.
Number and Operations

Building Sets of Seven

Students construct and identify sets of seven objects. They compare sets of up to seven items, and record a set of seven in chart form.
Number and Operations

Building Sets of Eight

Students explore the number 8. They make and decompose sets of eight, write the numeral 8, and compare sets of up to eight objects.
Number and Operations

Building Sets of Nine

Students construct sets of up to nine items, write the numeral 9, and record nine on a chart. They also play a game that requires identifying sets of up to nine objects.
Number and Operations

Building Sets of Ten

Students explore sets of up to 10 items and practice writing the numbers 0 through 10. Students count back from 10, identify sets of up to 10 objects, and record 10 on a chart. They also construct and decompose sets of up to 10 items.
Number and Operations

Wrapping Up the Unit

Students review this unit by creating, decomposing, and comparing sets of zero to 10 objects and by writing the cardinal number for each set.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Construct groups of zero to five objects.
  • Identify and write the numerals 0 through 5.
  • Record groups of zero through five.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Connect number words and numerals to the quantities they represent, using various physical models and representations.
  • Count with understanding and recognize "how many" in sets of objects.
  • Develop a sense of whole numbers and represent and use them in flexible ways, including relating, composing, and decomposing numbers.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.B.5
    Count to answer ''how many?'' questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1-20, count out that many objects.

Common Core State Standards – Practice

  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4
    Model with mathematics.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP5
    Use appropriate tools strategically.