How to Teach the Numbers 0-10 and the Shapes

Hello!  In this blog, I am going to tell you how I teach the numbers 0-10 and the basic shapes in a fun and active way that children enjoy, using many different types of learning tools!  Knowing the names of the numbers and basic shapes is an important skill that every child needs in order to progress in school.  Anyone would think that just telling children a few times what the name of the numeral or shape is would be enough!  But all too often, it is not.  Some children have trouble remembering visual symbols such as the numbers and the shapes, and they need a lot more help than just being told what it is a few times.  This seems to be especially true of children that did not go to preschool, and of those that come from homes where there is not a lot of literacy activities going on.  This blog post was written to help the teachers and parents of those children that are struggling with this very important skill of recognizing the basic shapes and numbers out of order.

Each year, when school begins, I teach my class the numerals and shapes by using the Jumpin' Numbers and Shakin' Shapes program that I created for this purpose.  When I created it, I continually tweaked it and changed it over the course of several years until I felt that I had it "right" and it seemed to work for every kid, every year- even those kids with special needs!  And then, at that point in time, I just happened to have the opportunity to record the songs in my then neighbor Mike Cravens' garage recording studio!

I still think that it is amazing how God puts things like this in our paths and intervenes in our lives!  If this hadn't happened, and if Mike hadn't volunteered to help out and hadn't believed in this project from the beginning, we might not have HeidiSongs at all right now!  (Don't worry- he was eventually paid for it- like about ten years later!!!!)  Later, my husband helped create our first set of kinesthetic flash cards that went with it, and Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes was born.  God is good!

So what is Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes?

Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes was designed for children that have not yet learned to identify the numbers 0-10 out of order and the eight basic shapes.  It is a system of teaching numeral and shape recognition through movement, music, and flash cards that contain a visual clue embedded into the numeral or shape.  Therefore, children use nearly all of their learning modalities and styles  (visual, auditory, musical, kinesthetic) to help them recall the names of the numbers and shapes.
To use it most effectively, you will need our specially designed number and shapes flash cards and the CD or DVD.  The flash cards each have a character embedded into each number or shape that serves as a mnemonic device to help jog the memory.

This is how it works:

1. The children are shown a flash card of a number or shape with a visual cue on it.

2. They make a motion that relates to the visual cue. (Ex. For number 8 they make a monkey scratching motion, since there is a monkey on the numeral eight card.)

3. They learn songs that further reinforce the names of the numbers or shapes and its corresponding motion.

4. Later, the visual cue on the number or shape is removed, and the kids respond as before, saying the name of the number and doing its motion.

5. Soon (usually after about 3 weeks of school), most Kindergartners have learned all of the numbers and shapes in a fun and painless way.

For example, there is a monkey on the number eight card. When the children see it, they are coached to make a monkey motion and say, “Eight!”  Often, if they cannot immediately remember the name of the numeral, when they make the motion the memory is jogged and the number often pops right out of their mouths, much to their surprise! The movement of the hands work to activate the muscle memory that some children need to help them remember the name of that number or shape. As an added bonus, many of the motions mimic the form of the number or shape. For example, the motion for number eight with the hands overhead and the knees bent forms the shape of the eight. The motion for number four is to hop with two hands up on your head like bunny ears; this is meant to look like the two top lines on a number four.

Learning is Natural and Easy

The learning that takes place here is as easy and natural for a child as learning a nursery rhyme such as “The Eency Weency Spider.” As soon as a child’s hands start making motion of the spider going up the spout, they begin to sing that little song, rarely forgetting a single word. I would be very surprised if most adults reading this cannot remember this little children’s song as well! This is because the movement combined with the music put that little song right into long term memory; it will probably be in most adults memories forever!

What I have done with the these specially designed number and shape cards is give each one a motion and a song that also incorporates those motions. For example, the Number Eight song goes like this: (sung to the tune of “This is the Way the Ladies Ride.”)

“Scritchity scratch goes number eight,
Number eight, number eight!
Scritchity scratch goes number eight,
Monkey number eight!”

The Visual Connection is Vital!

I always try to hold the flash cards in my hand while my class sings the number songs. Or, better yet, I simply put on the DVD and the character from the flash card will appear on the screen!  I also drill the children on the flash cards apart from using the CD or DVD.  (Please see the video of the children doing the motions for the number and shape cards.)

After a couple of weeks, we simply change to plain old number and shape flash cards and drill the children in the same way; by having them respond verbally and physically with the associated motion, even though the character is not there.  All it takes is one or two children to remember what to do and say, and then everyone is practicing the numbers and shapes as before, but this time with their attention focused on a simple number or shape flash card!  Usually, in about two or three weeks, my whole kindergarten class knows the numbers and shapes out of order on plain flash cards. (If there is a straggler or two still working on a couple of isolated numbers, I pull the children out and work with them individually on it sometime during the day.) Whenever most of the children know the numbers and shapes, we stop singing those songs and switch over to the Musical Math songs instead.  After that, we sing the number songs for zero through ten “by request only.” But since the numbers and shapes are useful to them, I have never had a child forget any of them during the course of the school year. One of the best things about this system of teaching numbers and shapes is that you can practice them with your whole class at the same time without the discipline problems that come from bored children, because all of the children usually enjoy the physical activity, whether they already know them or not.  

To achieve the maximum benefit, as your students practice with the flash cards, it is very important that the children do these four things simultaneously:

1. Look at the flash card that you are holding.

2. Say the name of the number or shape audibly.

3. Hear others saying the name of the number or shape, hopefully correctly!

4. Do the motion that goes with that card.

What to Do If a Child is Not Getting It    

Remember:  these four steps above must be done simultaneously for this to really work well and work fast to help children remember the numerals and shapes.  This is because Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes takes advantage of “muscle memory” to help children remember; but if they are not looking at the card while they do the motion, what will they associate it with?  If they do not say the word while they are looking at it and doing the motion, then they may recognize the number or shape if someone else points to it, but perhaps not be able to express what it is themselves.  This is the essence of a simultaneous multi-sensory lesson;  if you do it, see it, say it, and hear it- all at the same time- then you greatly increase the chances that the learner will remember the content of the lesson.  Each element that you allow to be left out of the lesson decreases the chance that the learner will retain the information.  So if you see a child that is doing the motion, but not looking at the card and not saying the numeral, then it is likely that he will not learn to identify that number very quickly.  It’s THAT important!  So watch your students and encourage them and praise them when they are doing all four of these things altogether, because that helps a LOT!  If there is a child that is not getting it, or not getting a couple of numbers, then try to find the time to pull that child out individually and work with him or her for just a few minutes, and try to get that child to look at the flash card while doing the motion, while saying the numeral or shape.  Once you get the child to do all of these things for you, have him or her do it a few more times in a row for you, praising him or her as you go along.  Then, when you are in a group situation again, watch that child and make sure that he does the same.  Remind him and praise him when he continues to practice as directed.  This will relieve you of the need to practice with the child individually, so it is well worth the effort.

When is it Time To Switch the Class to Drilling with Plain Flash Cards?

I usually wait about two weeks or so into the school year, or when the children seem to have gained some automaticity with the Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes flash cards.  Then I try out drilling them with the plain flash cards that are printed on the back, just to see how they do.  If they hesitate on a number, I flip the card around and give them a quick glance at the character on the back.  Then I flip it back around again to the plain number side so that they have to do the motion and say the number again without the “crutch” of the character on the Jumpin’ Numbers side.  This seems to help “imprint” the plain numbers and shapes into their memories, just as it did before as I showed them the special cards with the characters embedded into the numbers and shapes.  So essentially, I am “weaning” the children off of the use of the special cards with the Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes characters on them, little by little, giving them assistance and reminders as needed.  The amount of time needed to do this varies by class, and takes anywhere from one to two weeks, depending on the children in the class.  After that, you will naturally want to use the numbers and shapes in different activities and lessons, and teach them to write them and draw them, etc.  The more you make them an essential part of their lives, the less likely it is that the children will forget them.  

Other Activities That Support Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes

There are several things that you can do other than use the flash cards and DVD or CD to help the children practice their numbers and shapes, and they are listed below.    

Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes Bingo

This is a downloadable “print it yourself” bingo game that has the numbers and shapes with their characters embedded into them on the bingo cards for the children as a clue to help them be successful.  The children listen to the teacher or a helper call out a number or shape, and then try to find it on their bingo card.  Each card has only six items on it, so that there are not too many per page and they are a good size for little eyes.  When the children cover up all of the items on a card, they have a bingo!  When we play it in my class, we continue playing until everyone in the group gets a bingo, and then we trade cards and play it again.

Jumpin' Numbers Bingo Card- (front)

Jumpin' Numbers Bingo Card- (back)

The bingo cards can be printed with the character cards on the front and the plain cards on the back, so that you can let children that don’t need the extra picture cues play without them.  Your more advanced students simply flip their cards over to the backs and play that way.  This is a nice, easy way to differentiate instruction within a group.   Match the Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes Flash Cards to Plain Flash Cards For this activity, simply print out the small flash cards that come with the set, and then print out the plain flash cards on a separate piece of paper.  Cut them apart, and then mix them up.  Have the children try to match them up to help them form the connection between the special flash cards with the characters and the plain numbers and shapes.

Play Games With the Flash Cards

Any card games that your child enjoys playing with other cards can be played with your Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin Shapes cards, such as Go Fish or Old Maid, etc.  My students really enjoy playing a simple card game called “Bang!” as well! To prepare the Bang game, just add a few extra flash cards to the stack that say “Bang!” on them.  Then mix them into the deck.  To play, deal each child in your small group one card in turn.  The child should identify the number or shape on the card.  But if the child receives a Bang! card, then he or she gets ALL of the cards at the table, excluding the dealer’s cards!  Make sure that you put one Bang! card on the bottom of the deck, and then the last person to receive a card will be the winner of the game.

This card above (and more like it) is a free download on our website's "Free Downloads" page.  Look for the file called “Active Responses.”  The file has both small and large (8.5" x 11") copies!

Another version of Bang! can also be played with a large group of children.  You will need the large flash cards for this, and then you’ll need to make some large flash cards of the same size that say “Bang!” on them, and mix them into the deck.  Now all you have to do is drill your students on the numbers and shapes.  But when they come to a Bang! card, then they all shout “Bang!” they all get to stand up!   Then you keep drilling the children as before, but with them all standing up.  When you come to another Bang! card, then they all shout “Bang!” again, but then this time they jump and sit down!  And so it goes: they get up and sit down, and get up, and sit down.  Little kids seem to think that this is hilarious and a really fun game!  It’s also a great way to keep them actively engaged.  You can vary the activity by putting in other themed cards other than cards that simply say, “Bang.”  The cards could have a cow on them, and the children could moo like a cow, etc.  Just use your imagination and little bit of clip art!  We have several different themed Bang! types of games on our website, many of which help kids practice the numbers 0-10, and some of them also include the shapes.  But all of them have blank cards at the back, so that you can customize the question cards to include whatever you want to drill and practice on.  You can find them here:

"Ring the Bell!" has a "back to school" theme.  It's my favorite!

"Halloween Boo!" is similar, but with a Halloween theme.

"Barnyard Bang!" has a great farm animal and Thanksgiving

"Jingle Bell Bang!" has a fun holiday theme to go with it!

"Buccaneer Bang!" has a fun pirate theme, but the cards included are for CVC words.  You would have to use the blank cards at the back to make number cards to play with this one.

Have Kids Rebuild the Numerals with Number Pattern Blocks
The Number Pattern Blocks set make a nice learning center that allow children the opportunity to try to rebuild the numbers with pattern blocks.  This is another way to expose them to the shape of the numerals and give them more experiences with them in general.  This can be done with real blocks or with blocks cut out of paper.  The masters for the paper pattern blocks to cut out by hand are a FREE download here, or if you are fortunate enough to have a die cut machine at your disposal, then that is even better!

Visual Aids Can Help
Get the Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes poster and put it up in your room so that the children can refer to it when needed.  It is less expensive than putting an extra set of flash cards on the wall, and keeps those all important numbers and shapes within view.  Another game that could be played with an extra copy of the poster is to have the children draw one of the small flash cards and try to match it up to the picture on the poster.  They could also place the correct number of counters on each space on the poster, or a corresponding block in the correct shape on the poster as well.

The Jumpin' Numbers Poster is a nice way to display the cards without having to have a second set.

I also use my Number of the Week Focus Wall set!  I review it daily with my students.  Or rather, I TRY to go through it daily, but let's face it:  sometimes things get in the way!  If your school is anything like all of the rest I have taught in, then there may be any number of assemblies, special programs, or an extra long project that your kids may need to attend/complete during the week that may prevent you from getting to that Focus Wall time.  SO, I just do my best and know that I probably won't get to it every single day.  But, if I can review all of the elements on my Focus Wall four times per week, (or even three!) then I know that most of my kids will have learned most of the content.... hopefully!

It's available for your pocket chart AND we have a virtual Google Slides and PowerPoint option as well!

Use the Songs in a Listening Center
Children benefit from seeing the songs that they are learning to sing in print.  Let the children listen and read along with the songs by using the printable Sing Along Song Book that is sold as a download.  To prepare it, simply download the book and print it out.  Then bind it together into a book, either with an office binding machine or by inserting the printed sheets into page protectors and putting them into a binder.  This seems to be the sturdiest way to bind up a book that small children will be handling a lot!

What Else Do I Need to Do?
Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes helps children learn to identify the numbers 0-10 out of order and the eight basic shapes.  There is even a song that helps them practice counting by rote from 1-100!  However, it will not help them develop one-to-one correspondence or number conservation.  It will not help them form a concept of how many three is or how many five is, nor which of these numbers is greater, etc.  These concepts come with time and experience counting and playing with real manipulatives, and this cannot be emphasized enough!  Jumpin’ Numbers and Shakin’ Shapes is NOT a complete math program in and of itself, by any means.    

Once the Children Know the Numbers and Shapes, then Practice Them!
Repeated practice over time is the best way to reinforce a skill.  The best way to do this is to have children count out real objects in certain quantities of numbers on command, and then match them to the numbers or write the numbers.  Eventually, they will need to work towards learning to look at a set of objects and start to instantly recognize that there are two or three objects in that set, without stopping to touch and count each object one by one.  In my experience, by the end of Kindergarten, most children can look at a group of four or five objects and simply “know” at a glance how many objects are in that set.  Board games that children and their families play with dice can really help achieve this goal, because children learn to recognize the patterns of the dice automatically and learn to instantly identify those dot patterns as quantities.   Once children have a firm sense of number and quantities in their heads, then it is time to start transferring these skills to paper.  Some children can count real objects with no problem, but when they are asked to count a representation of those objects on paper, that is another question entirely!  These objects drawn on paper cannot be felt or moved around, and so they are simply abstract representations of the real thing.  It may seem to adults that this should be an easy and natural transition, but for the very young child, it can be a challenge!  There are many practice pages provided in our Counting Creatures Volume One workbook for your use.

Kids like the illustrations on the Counting Creatures worksheets, and they are good practice.

To help this process along, you may need to have children place real objects on top of the pictures of the objects on the paper, and then have your child count them aloud.  After that, then remove the real objects and have your child count the objects pictured on the worksheet.  Sometimes, having the child cross off the objects on the worksheet as he or she counts them can help, because they tend to count some of them twice and others not at all!  Another thing that helps is teaching children to stick to a routine when counting objects pictured on a worksheet, such as always beginning at the top left and then counting from left to right and proceeding downward from there as they count.  Children will also need to recognize the shapes that they have learned to name in the world around them.  Try taking them on a shape walk to see what they can find!  This can even be done simply within the walls of your own home or classroom.  Some teachers even let their children use their iPods or iPads as cameras and have the children take pictures of the things in their rooms that are shaped like rectangles, etc.  Then they share their pictures with the rest of the class.  Children also need to realize that these shapes can be turned in any direction and are still identified as the same thing.  There are many iPad and iPod apps that are great for this purpose.  Check my blog post on my favorite apps for some great recommendations.

Moving On From Number Sense
Lots of patterning, sorting, and problem solving, and counting must be done in order to develop mathematical thinking.  Our Musical Math Resource CD has lots of activities for these kinds of things, plus songs to make it more fun. The CD and DVD also include songs for coin recognition, skip counting, estimation, volume shapes, addition, and subtraction!  The songs help the children remember facts about each of the above topics that they will need to learn in Kindergarten and first grade.  I hope you will check it out, as I find it to be an invaluable learning tool as well!


The Musical Math DVD has lots of math concepts in it set to music.

Moving On to Learning Numbers 11-30
Learning to recognize the numbers from 11-30 can be quite a challenge for many children.  Jumpin’ Numbers Vol. 2 is a fun, multi-sensory way to practice these numbers.  For more information on how to use this resource, please see our user guide on Jumpin Numbers Vol. 2.

Jumpin' Numbers Vol. 2 helps kids learn the numbers 11-30.

We also have our Number Jumble DVDs!! 0-10 or 0-30!!

Have fun teaching math this year!  I would love to hear from you if you have tried any of the above teaching methods!

- Heidi :)

P.S. Don't forget all our videos are available to STREAM on UScreen, FREE for the first 30 days! It's an awesome way to bring some EASY, active learning to your students during this time, and they can always cancel right before they are ever charged, like on day 29! Check out the info page on our website for more info!

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