Numbers Brain Breaks

World language students often need help with numbers. Numbers are useful, but they are abstract and many are not high frequency, plus teachers do not always incorporate numbers into lessons. So students begin to forget them. I hate it when level 2, or even 3, students are hesitant about using numbers. Don’t you?

These Numbers Puzzles are two numbers brain teasers that you can use as brain breaks, or as rewards to reinforce numbers in the target language. There are versions of these puzzles in Spanish, French, Latin, Russian and German!

Each takes only about 5 minutes of class time.

Thanks to Michele Whaley for help with Russian, Lance Piantaggini for help with Latin, and Eric Richards for the German translation. If you speak a language not represented in the activities, please adapt these, send the translation to me, and I will post them.

   Pi Day     

And keep in mind that Pi Day is almost here. Every year, March 14 is a day to celebrate the fascinating number Pi, because 3.14 are the first three digits of the infinite string of numbers of Pi. If you haven’t heard of it, Pi Day is a big deal. This year Pi Day is on a Monday. The Pi challenge is a positive way to start the week.

An interesting activity is to challenge students to memorize digits of Pi in the target language. Have a level of recognition for 10 or 20 and high honors for memorizing 50 or even more.

One year, we had a girl named Everett in a Spanish 1 class that memorized Pi to 100 digits in Spanish (!). Here’s how she proved that she could do it: She stood in front of the classroom, facing her classmates. The digits were projected on the screen behind her so that the other students could “check her work.” This served to make them concentrate on the sound/meaning pairing as she rattled them off. They followed closely because they wanted to see if she was going to trip up (She didn’t). It was a great way to get slower students to review enough in their heads in order to get them to be more fluent with the numbers – no more counting on the fingers to figure out nueve.

This is not a language learning activity per se, but it acknowledges excellence, perseverance and a powerful memory. Plus, it’s fun and impressive! For slower students, it is good for them to hear the numbers in the target language as they follow along.

Here are the first 100 digits of Pi by 10’s to post so that students can take up the Pi memorization challenge and their classmates can follow as they say the digits in the target language:











Here (English), here (Spanish) and here (Spanish) are videos to help coach students to memorize long strings of numbers.

The frequency of use of words is fascinating — to us language geeks anyway.  Here is a blog on the frequency of number words in Spanish. And here is a blog on the frequency of number-related vocabulary in Spanish. Both of these students were eye-opening to me–made me want to use numbers every day!

Please share your experiences with these number activities, as well as any others that you’ve had success with.