Recognising the Numbers up to 20- (Not as easy as it seems!)

I had a realisation a few weeks a go that I’d missed a key learning step when teaching numbers. I pointed at the number 18 to a child and asked him to tell me what it was and…. he didn’t know. No big deal….except he’s been counting to 20 for nearly a year and can nearly write and recognise all the numbers up to 10. And it struck me that although I’d taught him how to count to 20 and recognise and form the number up to 10, I’d naively just presumed he knew what the ‘teen’ numbers were and  would be able to recognise them too. But how could he?!

When I thought about it- I realised  the ‘teen’ numbers can actually be really difficult to remember for little ones. (And don’t get me started on eleven and twelve as they are really tricky!) For example, I was asked (understandably!) “why is it Fifteen not Fiveteen? When we have fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen and nineteen?”

What can you do to help children recognise all the numbers up to 20, including these pesky ‘teen numbers’? 

  • Draw Numbers And instead of stopping at 10 (like me!!) keep going when children are learning to form the numbers, address the misconceptions and challenges and also use fun activities and resources to support. Here’s some resources and activities you can try (read our post on forming the numbers correctly here)
  • Play with NumbersChildren learn through playing so let them play with the numbers themselves. We adore these Squidgy Sparkle Number Tiles 0-20 by TTS Group. They are a fantastic sensory resource for allowing children to interact with the numbers themselves through squishing and squeezing the liquid inside the numbers- helping them to remember how the numbers look. They are also brilliant for engaging them with numbers and making it a fun learning activity. Also, in my opinion for children with a Visual Impairment this resource may be beneficial as they can enjoy feeling the shapes of the numbers.


  • Display Them- Seems obvious, but have the numbers up to 20 visible so children have the opportunity to recognise them throughout the day. You could simply write them on a piece of paper to stick up, print them or be creative with chalks outside, paints on paper or even use the Squidgy Sparkle Number Tiles 0-20 we mentioned, as a window display.


  • Spot Them- When you’re out and about, point out the numbers and challenge children to do the same. As we wrote in our post about making maths fun for children, numbers are everywhere..buses, signs, phones, tv remotes.. kids love finding them too. Little and often, practising recognising them,  often works.

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