Teaching and Learning Numbers in English: ESL Beginner Lessons

Teaching numbers
Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

The use of numbers for beginners is important. These exercises can be done almost like a grammar chant. The back and forth of a chant helps to memorize the numbers more quickly. 

Learning the Numbers 1 to 20

Start by with numbers one through 20. If you are teaching in a classroom, you can write a list on the board and point to the numbers, asking student to repeat after you as you point. Once students have learned these numbers, you can move on to other, larger numbers.

 

  • 1 - one
  • 2 - two
  • 3 - three
  • 4 - four
  • 5 - five
  • 6 - six
  • 7 - seven
  • 8 - eight
  • 9 - nine
  • 10 - ten
  • 11 - eleven
  • 12 - twelve
  • 13 - thirteen
  • 14 - fourteen
  • 15 - fifteen
  • 16 - sixteen
  • 17 - seventeen
  • 18 - eighteen
  • 19 - nineteen
  • 20 - twenty

Practicing Random Numbers

If you are working with a group of students, you can write a list of random numbers on the board and point to the numbers as you work your way around the classroom.

  • Teacher: Susan, what number is this?
  • Student(s): 15
  • Teacher: Olaf, what number is this?
  • Student(s): 2

Learning the 'Tens'

Next, students learn 'tens' which they can use with ever larger numbers. If you are teaching, you can write out a list of the tens and point to them one by one, asking the students to repeat after you:

  • 10 - ten
  • 20 - twenty
  • 30 - thirty
  • 40 - forty
  • 50 - fifty
  • 60 - sixty
  • 70 - seventy
  • 80 - eighty
  • 90 - ninety
  • 100 - One hundred

Combining 'Tens' and Single Digits

Next the teacher should write a list of various numbers, both single digits and multiples of ten and point to the numbers.

This will allow students cover all the numbers up to 100. Ask your students to repeat after you as you point to the numbers. For example: point to the 20 and then the two.  

  • Student(s): 22
  • Teacher: [points to 30 and six]
  • Student(s): 36
  • Teacher: [points to 40 and eight]
  • Student(s): 48, etc

Continue this exercise around the class.

Contrasting 'Teens' and 'Tens'

The 'teens' and 'tens' can be tricky because of difficulties is distinguishing between similar-sounding pairs like 13 - 30, 14 -40, etc. Write the following list of numbers and as you point to the numbers, exaggerate the pronunciation, emphasizing the 'teen' of each number and the unaccented 'y' on the 'tens'.

  • 12 - 20
  • 13 - 30
  • 14 - 40
  • 15 - 50
  • 16 - 60
  • 17 - 70
  • 18 - 80
  • 19 - 90

Be careful to pronounce slowly, pointing out the difference in pronunciation between 14, 15, 16, etc. and 40, 50, 60, etc.

Now ask your students to repeat after you.

  • Teacher: Please repeat after me. 12 - 20
  • Student(s): 12 - 20
  • 13 - 30
  • 14 - 40
  • 15 - 50
  • 16 - 60
  • 17 - 70
  • 18 - 80
  • 19 - 90

If numbers are especially important for your class, teaching basic math vocabulary should prove quite helpful as well.