Number reversals are a big part of our students lives but this simple trick has stopped reversals in it’s tracks!

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Adrianne: Hi, it’s Adrianne from Math for Middles. So excited to join you today. I’ve got a really quick little trick for you for stopping number reversals in their tracks. So, this is a big problem for a lot of our students, small and bigger. Our little kids and our teenagers, this is a problem, especially if they have dyslexia. They really can struggle with number reversals, and we have a little trick for you that actually stops it relatively fast. We had a student do this recently, and he stopped reversing his numbers within two, three days, I think and now he’s doing it consistently the right way, every single time, which is huge.

Adrianne: So, part of the problem with number reversals, and what’s happening with your child, why they do that is because they have no sense of where they’re starting. So, let’s look at a blank page. Why, that’s a little bit overwhelming. So, if you’ve got a kiddo that has dyslexia or that’s reversing their numbers or letters, part of it is because they have a little bit of directionality, they’re really driven by gross motor, and so looking at a blank piece of paper like this is really intimidating and you’ll actually see kids hovering with their pencil on the paper, not really sure where to start. So, a lot of them will unbeknownst to them pick the bottom of the paper as their ground, and they start forming numbers from the bottom to the top like this. So, if you’ve got a kiddo that makes a nine like this, that is diagnostically significant, that your child is choosing to do it that way tells us a lot about how their brain is wired, and the problem with doing that, making a nine from the bottom up and around like that, is that it’s really similar motion as the number six.

Adrianne: Look at that, and so because kids have directionality issues in their mind’s spacial reasoning, that might be really tricky for them, and they’re gonna get those numbers mixed up because the motion feels really similar. So, what we do is we help ground in the child with gross motor how the numbers are really formed, going from the top to the bottom. So, let’s run through that really quick, how I do that, and you can give this a try at home with your kiddo and see if it helps. So, the very first thing to do is we pull out a piece of paper that’s blank like this, and we draw a stick figure with a head, it doesn’t have to be beautiful, folks, arms and legs. We talk to the kids about how we’re gonna form our numbers starting up here by the head, always.

Adrianne: So for example if I’m making, let’s start over here, a five, I’m gonna start on the left shoulder and I’m gonna go down, over and around, and put a hat on the top. To a kid, that makes a lot of sense. I’m starting on the left shoulder. So, here. Going down and around. That makes a lot of sense to a kiddo like that, and a hat on top, so that going back up to the top. That’s one thing, let me tell you really quick. If your child struggles with left and right, you might want to work on that for a little bit about which one is left, which one is right. So, let’s look at the number three. It’s the same idea. We start at the top, and we go around to the right and make two bumps. Now, here’s where the gross motor connects in. I want you to have your child write on your back starting in the places that you told them to.

Adrianne: So, if they’re making a five on your back, they’re gonna start on your left shoulder, go down and around, and put a hat on top. Same with the number three. They’re gonna start at the left shoulder, and go around and make two bumps. So, that’s really helpful, and that’s the key, is it’s gross motor and it’s movement, and they’re getting a sensation as they’re touching your back, and they’re gonna write it on your back first. Then, they’re gonna turn around and you’re gonna write the numbers on their back. So, if your child makes a mistake drawing it on your back, you’re going to immediately have them turn around and you’re gonna draw it on their back.

Adrianne: It’s gonna help really solidify how these numbers are formed. We did this with a student and like I said, two, three days he had it down. No more mistakes. He stopped it all together. So, I thought it would be helpful to have you see how we form the numbers from the top so that we stop the bottom to the top behavior so that then motions are different for the student, so the input is different into their brain and they don’t make those mistakes anymore. So, with five and three, I showed you that, the down and around. Let’s do, we’ll start from the very beginning here. So, obviously one, we start at the top and go down. Some kids really do want to start at the bottom and go up. Make sure they start at the top. So in this case, I would say start in the middle of my neck, by my neck, from the top go down. That’s the number one. Now, let’s make two. Start on my left shoulder, go around, and down. So, see how that’s like a backwards C? It’s like a ear and over.

Adrianne: So, that’s one and two. Let’s do three and four, starting with the three on my left shoulder, around, and down. A four, we start at the left shoulder again. Do you see how we’re doing that repetitive motion? This is two motions starting with the four, left shoulder, down and over, right shoulder, down. Here we go, let’s do five. Okay, five we’re gonna do start on the left shoulder, down, over and around, and a hat on top. Same with six. This time we’re gonna start on the right shoulder and go down and around. Seven, we start on the left shoulder, over and down. Eight, we start on the right shoulder and we go make an S, and then close it. Now, that’s really important. Eight is a difficult one because a lot of kids like to make snowmen eights. The problem with that is the loops that they make never touch so it doesn’t look like an eight. Instead it looks like two zeros stacked which is not gonna work for us.

Adrianne: So, teaching a student to start on the right shoulder, make an S, and then close it is the best way to get a student to make the number eight. Okay, let’s finish up with the number nine. It’s probably my students’ favorite one. We start on the right shoulder, make a circle, a small circle, and a stick. From my trainer Marilyn, she calls it a rotten apple on a stick. We make the silly voice like this. Rotten apple on a stick. Like that. Kids get it right away, so the method is we’re gonna go back and forth, back and forth. Mom, Dad, parent, child. Have them do it with their siblings, whoever they want to. They could do it on their dog’s back if they wanted to, but that gross motor movement and tying it to the body is gonna help them figure out where to start on the paper, and do it consistently, and the reversals will stop really quickly.

Adrianne: So, give that a try. Let me know how it goes. I would love for you to come back to this post, leave me a comment down below, and report on how it worked for your child and if they were able to form the numbers and stop those reversals. You can use the same technique with letter reversals as well, drawing on the back, but for our purposes we’re focusing on numbers and hoping that that helps you. So, if you’ve got any questions for me about this method, I would love to hear from you. Reach out to us at hello at