Teaching Kids About Roman Numerals

Teaching Kids About Roman Numerals

Roman numerals are not used too often any more but it is still important for children to know about the different representations of numbers. It is a great way to enhance their number sense, foster a better understanding of how numbers work and is extremely good for increasing their mental maths skills. You can start by giving some context to children about how Roman numerals were used in everyday life in the Roman empire and how even after its fall they were used throughout Europe. Ask them if they have seen Roman numerals and where they have seen them and show them the clocks and monuments where they are still used.

As with everything, kids have to start learning Roman numerals from the basics — what they look like, how they can be combined to form different numbers, how to read them and how to easily \

convert Roman numerals to numbers. Understanding Roman numerals can feel like you are deciphering a secret code. It might be challenging in the beginning but a simple Roman numbers activity can make it fun. What are the Roman numerals? Start by showing them the 7 basic Roman numeral symbols.

If they find it difficult to remember the symbols, teach them some simple sentences like,

‘I Value Xylophones Like Cats Devour Milk’

Rules of Roman Numerals

After they are familiar with these symbols, it becomes quite easy for them to understand how to write Roman numbers and that they can be combined to make lots of different numbers.

    You just have to explain to them that when a smaller symbol appears after a larger symbol, it has to be added — VI = V + I = 5 + 1 = 6. On the other hand, when a smaller symbol appears before a larger symbol it is subtracted — IX = X – I = 10 – 1 = 9. A popular rhyme that is taught to children so that they can remember the rule easily is
    When left is small and right is bigger,
    Subtract the left from the right-hand figure.

  • You never have more than 3 of the same numbers in a sequence or row — 3 is written as III but four is IV and not IIII. in the same way, 30 is XXX but 40 is XL and not XXXX.

How to Teach Roman Numerals to Children

Children who already know their numbers till 10 or 20 are ready to learn Roman numerals through this Roman numbers activity. Children who have just started with basic maths will benefit because the Roman numeral system is all about counting, adding and subtracting while older children can sharpen their maths skills by dealing with the bigger Roman numerals. The more interactive the method and the more variety you use, the deeper the impact will be of Roman numerals on kids and the more fun everyone will have.  Games that strengthen maths skills while having fun is a really exciting way for children to recognise and learn Roman numerals and convert Roman numerals to numbers.

Roman Numeral Bingo

Give them Bingo cards with Roman numerals from 1 to 100 and read out numbers for children to find on their Bingo cards. When children see the number on their Bingo card they cross it off and the first child to mark off a winning pattern is the winner.

Show and Tell

Write out the Roman numerals on a whiteboard or a big poster and let the kids write them too as they learn best while doing it themselves. Repetition is a key to retaining new information and spending just 15 minutes a few times a week will be enough to teach children the basics.

Counting with Roman Numbers

Children love being loud, so ask everyone to stand up and shout out the numbers from I to XX. The children learn by hearing the numbers, they reinforce their learning by speaking and they associate the learning with having fun.

Roman Number Scavenger Hunt

Write out a number of Roman numerals and hide them in the house or attach them to different items. Then give children a sheet with Arabic numerals and ask them to write down what the corresponding Roman numeral is attached to.

Identify Roman Numbers in Real Life

Ask children to find Roman numerals that are used in real life like on clocks or in the credits that indicate the year the film was produced. Have the children identify what number it signifies. Ask them to be on the look out for Roman numerals and report back when they find any.

Though not used much any more, Roman numerals are still in use, they teach basic maths facts and they can be loads of fun. Addition and subtraction with Roman numerals is actually very easy but multiplication, division and fractions are a bit of a struggle. The fact that there is no zero is a big disadvantage and one of the main reasons that Indo-Arabic numerals slowly replaced Roman numerals over the years. Learning Roman numerals and how to write Roman numbers hands-on is the best bet and using safe matchsticks is a great way for kids to not only form the numerals but also a great way to practise addition and subtraction. You could set a few word problems with Roman numerals or play a sequence game where children can be timed to see how fast they can put Roman numerals in the correct sequence in either ascending or descending order. For older children, you can set some multiplication or division problems with Roman numerals but do be careful that the ‘times’ sign (x) is in lower case to ensure that it’s not mixed up with ten (X).

Roman numerals for kids can also be practised playing loop games, hopscotch, using as part of Venn diagrams and Carroll diagrams, to make magic squares,  for area and perimeter calculations, used as coordinates, for codebreaking, exchanging money, playing dice games, number snap, calendar games, addition and subtraction grids and much more. Though learning Roman numerals for kids might not be the most important maths skill for them to learn, it’s still an exciting way to reinforce other maths concepts, integrate maths into history lessons and develop children’s maths resilience and interest.

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