Do Your Children Confuse Letters and Numbers?

My apologies for this being so late – have been ‘Grandma’ this week!

Had a great question asked at the conference I was at last week – what do you do for children who confuse letters and numbers. I had to think back for some solutions! Typically the ones most confused are number 1 and letter ‘l’, number 0 and letter ‘o’ and number 6 and letter ‘b’. Some children, tho, will look at ‘8’ and call it ‘r’ – no connection whatsoever.

Firstly, the problem stems from the fact that these children do not have a good concept of print or numbers to start with. Most likely, they haven’t had a lot of exposure. I would start with a class discussion of when we use letters and when we use numbers. List on a chart. Then, be sure to use the two terms “number(s)’ and ‘letter(s)’ as often as possible, always linking them to examples. eg. This is the number 6. Can you find the letter /b/? Since there are fewer numbers, it might be simpler to focus more on the numbers, with the hope that if they can internalize the concept of number, then it will follow that the ‘other ones’ are the letters.

Take 10 pieces of cardstock and write the numbers 0 – 9 on each, fairly large. Randomly put the papers down on the floor and instruct the child to ‘jump on the number 7, etc.” – then ask, “What number is it?” and have them repeat “the number 7”. You can do this with the letters as well.

Go around the room, point to numbers and letters and ask, “Is this a number?” or “Is this a letter?” You can have them identify it, using the term ‘number’ or ‘letter’. If they are wrong, correct and then return to that one and review. If they are hesitant, give them a prompt such as the sound /n/ or/l/ to try to prevent the error from happening in the first place.

Have them go around the school with a piece of paper and write down all the numbers they can find (will need supervision). Repeat for letters.

Give the child various pages with both numbers and letters on it.  Have them circle or trace the numbers with one color and the letters with another color.  If possible, have an adult monitor, using the two terms as they complete the activity. You could scan these and put them on the SMARTboard.

Get 2 containers – boxes, jars, etc and decorate each with numbers or letters. Cut cardstock into small cards and write numbers and letters on each. Children can put the numbers in the number container and the letters into the letter container.

Have large laminated outline numbers so children can make the shape with play doh, wiki stix, crayons, etc.

As I say in all my sessions, practice is the key!   Try to come up with as many fun ways to differentiate between the two as you can.  I’ll keep thinking!