• Which words would you add to the lists of number-related vocabulary below?

• Which ones do you tend not to use?

• What are your favorite techniques for using numbers meaningfully?

NOTE: Activities and games for teaching and reinforcing numbers will be available for a limited time at https://storylabs.app/signup . Put in the book code hedstrom (all lower case) for free access until July 1.

Some number-related vocabulary sticks with students, some doesn’t. That stickiness has to do with how often students see and hear those words after the numbers unit is over. If your curriculum requires you to do a numbers unit I wouldn’t drop it, but then keep on using numbers in meaningful and interesting ways afterwards. How?

Words need context. If you want them to stick, you can’t only teach the numbers. That’s not engaging enough after a while. Meaningful activities must accompany the numbers and number-related words. For a frequency list of the numbers in Spanish and discussion of how to use those see the previous blog on that subject here:

Upper level students should eventually know most of these, but in terms of utility and likelihood of use, not all are valuable to lower-level students. Where should the line be drawn? It depends, but One thing for sure, teaching all of these words in a beginning number unit would be a waste of valuable class time. The number-related vocabulary needs to be sheltered.

Ordinal Numbers

The ordinal numbers and sequencing words show up in most level 1 programs. But not all of them are useful. If we are thinking in terms of frequency, just a few of the ordinal numbers are valuable to beginners. There is an obvious break in these ordering words after the first five: próximo (next) has a frequency number of 440 and cuarto (fourth) is 897. In a level 1 class, the first 5 on this list are likely sufficient. For talking about order these 5 can give us two overlapping sets of three sequences:  primero (1st), próximo (next), ultimo (last) and primero (1st), segundo (2nd), tercero (3rd). That is enough to begin with. There is little need to teach all of the ordinal numbers because they are not used often enough to justify precious class time and brain space to justify it, given that these words will not come up all that often.

primero (#60)                 first

último (#139)                  last

segundo (#243)              second

tercero (#394)                 third

próximo (#440)               next

cuarto (#897)                  fourth

quinto (#1179)                fifth

sexto (#3140)                  sixth

décimo (#3355)              tenth

séptimo (#4905)             seventh

octavo (not in top 5000)  eighth

noveno (not in top 5000)  ninth

Number-Related Words:

In order to use numbers in ways that will engage students, they will also need to learn number-related vocabulary. To maintain interest, you will need to talk about many different subjects that involve numbers, not just the numbers themselves. There are no hard and fast rules as to precisely which words students need to learn, just guidelines to keep in mind. Each word you teach and use need not be high-frequency.

Some low-frequency words are fun and useful. The word adivinar, to guess, for example, has a frequency number of 2954. For a novice this is a relatively rare word, but it is useful in a classroom setting because you can set up engaging guessing games that have students competing against one another. The word cuánto/cuántos, how much, how many, with a frequency number of 723, is not super high frequency, but it is a must-know word when talking about numbers with newbies because asking questions about quantity is valuable in directing conversations.

Even common adjectives like grande (#62) and pequeño (#184) can lead to comments with less common, but interesting adjectives like gigante (#4264) and pequeñito (#4566), and then to follow-up questions involving specific quantities involving numbers.

So which of these number-related words should we explicitly teach? It depends on your curriculum, the age of your students and their level, but some of the natural breaks in frequency level may help guide us here.

If English is the first language of many of your students, the many Spanish/English cognates on this list will give them an added advantage.

más (#24)                        more, plus

año (#55)                         year

menos (#98)                    less, minus

contar (#155)                  to count

la cuenta (#170)             the bill

único (#181)                    only

y medio (#208)               and a half

igual (#239)                     equal, the same

siglo (#273)                     century

número (#315)               number

edad (#350)                     age

pie (#386)                        foot

metro (#563)                  meter

la mitad (#625)               half

costar (#626)                   to cost

total (#629)                     total

cuánto(s) (#723)             how much, how many

medir (#929)                   to measure

dividir (#1015)                to divide

moneda (#1107)             coin

kilómetro (#1297)          kilometer

temperatura (#1558)     temperature

dólar (#1878)                  dollar

multiplicar (#2034)        to multiply

tarjeta (#2039)               card

kilo (#2648)                     kilo, kilogram

adivinar (#2954)             to guess

billete (#3070)                bill

peseta (#3725)               peseta

centavo (#4892)             cent

libra (#4964)                   pound

altitud (not in top 5000)  altitude

cheque (not in top 5000)  check

onza (not in top 5000)   ounce

There are obviously many more number-related words that could be added to this list, but these are ones that have been the most useful to me.

What do you think?