Check out Engineering Explorers, our newest online resource!

Numbers 11-19

by Early Math Counts

English is a funny language.  It is hard to learn and nothing spells the way it sounds. We have more exceptions to rules than we have rules themselves.  Our adjectives come before our nouns and our tenses are a hot mess.

That is why I thought I should mention the trouble with the English counting words above ten and below twenty.  In many languages, each of those numbers’ values is described by the words themselves.  Eleven should really be “ten plus one,” and twelve should be “ten plus two,” and so on.  This would make so much more sense as children begin to associate the counting words with their values.

Perhaps it is wise to explain to your children as they begin counting above ten, that eleven really means ten plus one, and fourteen really means ten plus four.

Remember, many children can count because they have memorized the counting words (rote counting).  This is not an indication of number sense as much as it is a growing competence in language and memory. Meaningful counting begins when children connect the number words with objects correctly as quantity.

7 Replies to “Numbers 11-19”

  1. Jen,
    Your blog is such a great service. Thank you.
    For years, we have been teaching our children \”Number Names\” and \”Nicknames\” to address the issue you raise with the English language (also a problem in Spanish). Here is a quick video of one of our children counting with \”Number Names.\” Notice how she points to the blocks to emphasize place value. If she chose to count with the \”Nicknames\” she would point to the black numerals.

      1. Hi Jen,
        Since nicknames are short for something, in our program we refer to the English rote counting words as the \”Nicknames\” since these short names don\’t tell us about the quantity of the number, i.e. the \”nickname\” eleven does not tell us about the quantity 10 and 1.
        The \”Number names\” we use are modled after the Japanese language in which the word for 11 is the same as the word for 10 followed by the word for 1; the word for 12 is the word for 10 followed by the word for 2, etc. so when our children count using the \”Number Names\” they say, \”…nine, ten, ten one, ten two, ten three … ten nine, two ten, two ten one, two ten two, etc.
        Hope this is helpful.

        1. It is helpful and very interesting. I am assuming since you continue to use the method, the children adapt quickly to this method and it works well. I also like that you simply say \”ten one\” rather than \”ten and one\”. This may make the most sense. Thank you for sharing this idea with the Early Math Counts readers.

          1. do you find that these nicknames then hinder their math communication later? My son struggles with the teens, would teaching him ten four then prevent him from committing fourteen to memory?

  2. ^^ Anonymous has a great point. At what point are you switching over to the actual english word for the number?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *