# Teaching Kids to WRITE the Numbers

Teaching children to write the numbers correctly can be very frustrating for early childhood teachers!  Also, attempting to GRADE their writing can be equally TRICKY!  What does a number written correctly look like, versus one that is not?  In this post, I am going to tell you how I teach my students to write the numbers.  I’ve posted some examples of student work showing numbers that look correct and some that are not, in my opinion.  Check the captions under the photos for explanations on why certain numbers “would pass” or not.  I also have some number formation poems to share with you, plus a free download of a parent guide that explains what those correctly formed numbers should look like- and the incorrect ones!

So it seems that every year, getting the children to write those numbers can be something like pulling teeth:  it comes slowly, and getting them to just “CARE” seems to be half the battle!  Perhaps the reason for this is that we know that the most important learning in math comes from working with manipulatives on hands on concepts, rather than teaching them to do paperwork.  So children spend most of their time counting, sorting, and patterning, and not as much time is devoted to doing pencil and paper work.  When it comes to math in Kindergarten, why would we want to spend much time with pencil and paper?

When young children begin learning to write numbers and letters, both visual perception and fine motor skills are still developing.  They also need to be very sure of the counting order of numbers.

So I tend to send math worksheets home for homework rather than do very many of them in class, since 15 minutes of daily homework is required in my school district anyway beginning in Kindergarten.  So my thought is, why not let them do this sort of thing at home, rather than spend our valuable class time at school doing this?  By the way, if you would like a free copy of this number writing worksheet with these large boxes, click here. The file has the paper formatted in two ways:  one paper has instructions for parents to be used for homework, and the other has instructions for use in the classroom.

As you can see in this young kindergartner’s writing, some of the numbers are tricky for them, such as the two, three, and four above.

Just so you know, I do often also ask parents to sign off on having done a short activity with manipulatives with their children as well, such as patterning or sorting. (Click here to see how I do my homework and get a free copy you can edit.)  However, I have a strong suspicion that some parents sign off on the paper without doing the activities because if I ask some of the children whether or not they did that at home, they just look puzzled and shake their heads “no.”

As children start to gain more maturity and experience with the counting sequence and pencil control, they begin to feel more comfortable writing more numbers. However, many of them still need some help with number formation. This child is doing very well, but still needs to work on numbers two, three, six, and seven. Also, I would have the child work on getting the horizontal line on the number four to cross all the way over the longer vertical line (but not all teachers require that, I know.)

And, there is one major problem with having kids do math paperwork at home:  there are always a few parents will accept ANY printing from their children, whether it’s numbers, letters, shapes, or anything else.  In fact, it seems to be the exception to find a mom (or dad) that actually requires that their child do careful work on their homework- and I often find that these parents are ALSO TEACHERS, LOL!  The trend seems to be that the lower the socio-economic status of the family, the less supervision of homework that I observe on papers that are returned (or worse- there is no homework done at all.)  There are always exceptions to the rules, but that’s just what I have observed in general.

This paper shows work done by a child that is very comfortable writing the numbers and clearly knows the counting sequence well. I can see that there was no hesitation or second thoughts, because the child didn’t need to stop to erase and rewrite any numbers. All of the numbers are formed correctly; the only thing that I would help the child with is trying to get the number two to be the same height as the rest of the numbers (the child did it twice.) Also, the zero on the number ten is a bit small, but that could have been just a one time error. The important thing to look for when helping children learn is mistakes that are repeated over time; not the single error on a test.

So here is the issue: even though when we go over and over how to form the numbers correctly, some of the children have simply formed bad habits somewhere.  Or, maybe they need more time to work on their fine motor skills.  Whatever the reason, here are some ideas that may help!

I decided to make a guide for parents that would explain exactly what is acceptable in number writing (at least in my classroom) and what is not, such as not making “snowmen” rather than a numeral eight drawn with a loop, if you know what I mean.  Of course, it does have one important flaw:  it does no good whatsoever unless someone at home actually READS it, so no guarantees!

Along with this guide, I stapled a practice number writing test with the numbers that needed some work circled in red pen.  (I hate doing that, because I know that the children will see it, but sometimes there is no other way to get that many messages home!)

When we DO practice number writing on worksheets, I usually use my Counting Creatures worksheets below.  They are fun (or more fun than MOST worksheets) because of the illustrations!  But we also practice using the techniques below.

For number writing practice, check out these “Counting Creatures.” Fun!

For number writing practice from 11-20, try HeidiSongs Counting Creatures Vol. 2!

If your students are having more trouble learning to write the numbers 11-30, try our Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 2 DVD.  The songs on it REALLY help kids remember how to make these tricky numbers, especially the teens!

How to Teach Children to Write the Numbers- and Some Number Formation Poems!

In addition to this paper to send home, this is how I teach my students to write the numbers in school.  Below, I am listing the specific language that I use with my students to help them learn how to write each number.  Click here to get the free download of the cards!

UPDATE:  12/20/15  In our newest DVD, Number Jumble, we turned the number formation poems below into SONGS and animated them with the Counting Creatures characters from those workbooks shown above!  It turned out totally adorable- check it out here!  And here’s a clip below!

Simple Number Formation Poems for teaching kids to write 0-10- free download! #Kindergarten

Zero:
Start at the top, make a circle that touches the line that you are writing on, and then go back up to the top.

Zero, zero,
Nothing to it!
Circle round,
I can do it!

One:
Start at the top and pull straight down.  Don’t make a “flag” at the top!  (Sometimes when children do this, the numeral winds up looking like a seven.)

I can make a one for you.
Straight line down,
And now I’m through!

Two:
Start high, make a rainbow, make a diagonal “slide” down to the bottom, and straight line across.  Our number two should not look like a backwards S or a snake!  If the line on the bottom is not as straight as an arrow, something is wrong.

Start up high,
Rainbow bright,
Down the slide,
Straight line right.

Three:
This is a tricky one for the children!  Start high and begin making a circle.  Stop when you get halfway around!  The end of your half-circle or “bump” is where you start your next one!  Trace the last part of that bump and draw another one underneath it.  Our number three shouldn’t look like a snake!  (Note:  in the poem below, when I say “Back up,” I mean to go backwards.  That’s the part where they trace.)  BTW, if someone has a better idea, I’m open to changing these!

Half a circle,
Back it out,
Half a circle, give a shout!

One problem for some kids is understanding the word “trace.”  If they don’t know what you mean, then they won’t understand that you want them to draw right on top of the end of that first half circle to begin their first one.  You’ll probably have better luck getting nice looking number threes if you explain that first.

Four:
Start up high, and pull straight down.  Now make it a capital L.  Start high again and make a lowercase t right through that L! Your line has to go right through that L so that we can see both “arms.”  Our number four wants both arms to show!

Make an L
And then for fun,
One line down,
And now you’re done.

Five:
We first make the line going down, then circle around, and THEN give it “a hat.”  So I say, “Down, around, give it a hat.”

Down, around,
Give it a hat.
That’s a five,
Just like THAT!

Six:
Start at the top and make a letter C.  Then draw a little circle or loop at the bottom.

Start on top,
And circle around,
Loop-de-loop
The bottom down!

Seven:
Start up high, and make a straight line.  Then make a “slide” or a diagonal line.  (Watch out for kids that make that second line going straight down rather than diagonally.)

Make a straight line.
To the right,
Down the slide,
And say goodnight.

Eight:
I tell the kids to make an S, but then to keep going.  They need to just draw a line from where the S ended to back where it started, like a “Connect the Dots” worksheet.

Make an S,
And then don’t stop!
Draw a line,
From the bottom to top.

Nine:
Make a circle up high, and then draw a straight line down.

Draw a circle
Up on top,
Straight line down,
And then you stop.

Ten:
Make a one and then a zero.  The one and the zero should be the same size or height; “one shouldn’t be in preschool and the other in Kindergarten.”  🙂

On the left,
you make a one!
Make a zero,
Now you’re done!

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Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
1. I am looking for a copy of your number writing “test” that you send home for the children to practice writing their numbers. Is it a part of your packs, or did I miss it somewhere? Thanks.

• Hi, I will upload that as soon as I can. Sorry, I forgot about that!

Heidi

2. Thanks! This is awesome! Do you have one for uppercase and lowercase letters as well?

• Hi, Kelly!
That would be a great idea! I don’t have one yet, but I guess I should start one!
Thanks,
Heidi

3. very beautiful. that’s a good way of teaching children how to write numbers. thank you.

4. Hi Heidi, I kept your email all this time and just now downloaded the number poems. Thank you so much! Just what I need right now!

Karen

5. We bought and use your letter DVD in my JK class. The children love them!!! They sing the songs, repeat the letter sound and are always telling me words that start with that sound. Thanks for the amazing resource.

• That’s great to hear! Thank you so much for letting me know!
🙂
Heidi

6. I work in the resource room at our school and was trying to download the Free Number Formation poems and Free Parent Guide but couldn’t find it to download together any where on your site.

• Hi,
The link was in the middle of the post, but I added it again to the very bottom to make it a little easier to find. Sorry about that! And here it is again. Click here!
Have a great day!
Thanks,
Heidi

7. I am working with a first grader who is constantly flipping his 2, 6, and 5’s. Which of your worksheets would you recommend to break this?

8. Hi Heidi,
Love your simple lyrics. Looking forward to using all of the numbers poems after the March Break with my JK/SK class. I have used a fun poem for the number 5 and the kids chuckle as they print it. This poem I got from my own children’s JK/SK teacher.
“Straight line down, big fat belly, line across the top.”

9. What research is there that supports writing numbers from top to bottom? After many years of teaching kdg, I am compiling information on why it is important and I am hoping to find some research facts about it.

• Hi,
I was always told that it produced a stronger, firmer, stroke- but I never looked for any research on that!
Sorry!
Heidi

10. Amazing work. With songs of numbers children will pick up writing numbers fast and they will remember the formations. Thanks