How To Teach Kids Numbers 1 to 10
Stimulating and efficient ways of teaching the basics of numbers to young learners.
For some reason students love counting. That is lucky because numbers are a basic part of almost any young learners’ course, starting with counting up to five or ten and moving on to money, dates, times and the rest. This article is about the early stages of that process, including making this endlessly repeated topic always new and interesting. Most of the activities and advice below also work with higher numbers, e.g. up to twenty or up to a hundred in tens.
The seven stages of teaching these numbers are:
 Counting up to 10
 Counting down from 10 to 1
 Counting things
 Understanding and responding to spoken random numbers between 1 and 10
 Being able to say random numbers when shown the figure
 Recognising and responding to numbers written out as words, e.g. number word recognition, word shape recognition and recognition of certain key letters. (First letter recognition isn’t enough as there are two numbers starting with T and two starting with F.)
 Being able to write the numbers
The teaching ideas below more or less follow the order above.
Counting up and down
The best activities for this are ones that engage the kids and whose actions etc give them some reinforcement of the size of the number they are hearing or saying. The simplest way of doing this is getting louder and louder as they count up, then quieter and quieter as they count down. This can be combined with actions in “Growing Numbers”, a TPR activity in which they start crouched down with their heads down and their arms around their knees for “1” and get bigger and bigger as they count until they end up stretched up high for “10”. Stepping backwards and forwards as they count also works in the same way. There are also plenty of story books and songs for counting up and down, e.g:
 Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed
 Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day
 Ten Little Indians
 One Little Finger (Tap Tap Tap)
 Ten Green Bottles Hanging on the Wall
 There Were Ten in the Bed (and the Little One Said Roll Over)
There aren’t many actual games for counting all the way from 1 to 10, but the teacher could stop early or make a mistake and get the students to correct them. Alternatively, they could add another challenge that makes it more difficult for students to get from 1 to 10, e.g. having to throw a ball back and forth without it touching the ground as they count, or counting as they stack up blocks to make a tower. You could also finish all classroom games when one team reaches ten points and ask the class to count the points before they go on to the next activity.
Counting things
There are plenty of games where students count how many of something there is. The best things for students to count are things that are around them in the classroom. This is more fun and active if you ask them to run around and touch things as they count them in response to questions like “How many windows are there?” You can add more of an intellectual challenge to this by half hiding some of the things (e.g. staplers and boxes of crayons) around the room. This hiding idea can also be used with students sitting down by using a Where’s Wallystyle detailed picture in which students must race to spot “How many giraffes are there?” by looking closely at it. A much simpler version is for the teacher to flash up a flashcard with a number of objects on it for the students to count and shout out the number as quickly as possible.
Counting songs can also be used at this stage if you use ones were the students can choose a number, e.g. ones for selecting people like Bubble Gum Bubble Gum in a Dish (How Many Pieces Do You Wish?).
Students can also run around to practise counting up to different numbers by the teacher telling them how many things they should look for and asking them to touch as they count them, e.g. “There are five in this room. What are they?”
Random numbers
Although they then go on to count, the last two ideas above already involve students producing or responding to numbers without necessarily counting first. In all the games below they can also count on their fingers etc but will find that learning not to need to do so will increase their speed and so chance of winning.
The simplest games are those where the teacher shouts out a number and the students respond in some way, for example:
 Running and touching the figure on the wall
 Running and jumping onto the figure sellotaped to the floor
 Running and circling that figure or number of things on the whiteboard
 Grabbing and holding up a flashcard with the figure on it
 Holding up that many fingers
 Holding up that many fingers between their group (with each person having to hold up at least one)
 Holding up that many arms amongst their group
 Holding up that many objects
 Drawing that many objects, e.g. arms on a monster
 Writing that figure
 Making that figure, e.g. out of pencils, paperclips, Playdoh or their bodies
 Colouring that many things in the colour that the teacher says, e.g. “Colour seven shoes blue”
Reading numbers 1 to 10
Most of the games above can be played with the teacher holding up, writing or pointing at the word rather than shouting it out. Throwing a dice with written numbers on it is a nice variation on this. The teacher could also show word shapes, write words slowly or show words with just the important letters (e.g. F and O for 4) written in.
Alternatively, the teacher can still shout out the number but get the students to do something with a written number, e.g. hold up the right written number, run and slap the right written number flashcard on the wall, or run and circle the right written word on the board.
Writing numbers 1 to 10
Students can respond to a shouted out word, incomplete written word, incorrectly spelt word, word shape, figure, being shown a number of objects or being asked to count a number of objects. Students can race to add the missing letters, correct the mistakes, spell the word with magnetic letters or letter flashcards, or rearrange the mixedup letters.
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic blog.
5 Comments

estelle says:
I am struggeling to teach my child. She is in grade 1 and not copy at all. She is english and I am afrikaans. Please any help will do. Kind regards :Estelle

Nurmetova says:
Hello Alex!
I have just read your article published June, 2012. It is full of useful advice and recommend that we need to. To teach kids how to count is one of the most difficult activity at lesson. It requires teacher to be so patient and hardworking Coz kids are not able to remember at once, so teacher must teach them repeating again and again.
The next thing which I could add is Im strongly agree with this idea : ”The best things for students to count are things that are around them in the classroom. This is more fun and active if you ask them to run around and touch things as they count them in response to questions like “How many windows are there?” ”. It is absolutely right as students can remember the things and numbers by touching that they learnt and they mostly pay attention to things in classroom . They compares the numbers with shapes around them. As a result, they easily memorize the numbers together with things.
Thank you very much for article. It is the best one I have read. Good luck in your future career! 
indira says:
my daughter mahima she unable to recognise the numbers in writing.

shikha says:
Hi
I m from imdia.
My kid is I pp1.
She is not at all recognized or memorized numbers or alphabets…..Other than above she learn fast….
Plzz help me..

Wendyann Williams says:
Hi Estelle maybe you can get a private tutor…i can also help the child online if you like my email is above. However there are other great activities that your child may like online you can Google some of the activities and fun ways in which you would like to teach your child.. helps alot