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Numeral & Dice Rocks – Ordering Numbers

Ordering Numbers with Numeral and Dice Rocks

My children love playing with rocks and pebbles in the garden. Writing numerals and sets of dots on them provides an opportunity for them to see and use numerals during their everyday play. Having these around for children to play with allows them to become familiar with numerals and numbers and gives them the opportunity for them to incorporate them into their daily play. Writing the dice pattern on one side of the rocks also gives them a chance to practice subitizing (recognising the number value based on the organisation of the dots like on a dice or dominos). We take our knowledge and understanding of numbers for granted. According to Bellos (2010) number knowledge is not ‘innate’ and much is understood and taught through experience, so this activity is an easy way to integrate numerals and numbers into children’s everyday play.

I’ve seen children use rock numbers in imaginative play to represent money or coins to be buried in the sand. Children also like to experiment with ordering the numbers, counting and naming them, matching numerals to values, or finding ‘their number’ age. According to Haylock and Cockburn (2017) children are usually not given enough opportunities to learn about the ordinal aspects of numbers (the order of a sequence of numbers, e.g. like the order of the pages in a book) aspects of numbers as compared to cardinal (the value of numbers).

Rock numbers can not only be used in children’s organic play, but can also be used for adult lead games such as ‘find the missing number’ or ‘find the number out of place’. All of these are great ways for children to practice ordering numbers. See my post on these games.

What you need

  • Set of stones- similar shape and size is preferable
  • Sharpie pen

Questions to ask

  • Can you show me number 1, 2, 3, etc.?
  • Which is the first? Next? Last?
  • Which number has the biggest value? The smallest?
  • How many dots are on this one? Which one has the most dots? Least dots?
  • Are they in the correct order? How do you know?
  • Can you order them from first to last? Last to first?

What they get from it

When children can practice recognising and ordering numerals, it gives them much needed opportunities to learn about the ordinal aspects of numbers. Children can use these numeral rocks in their everyday play, which can stimulate their imaginations to use them in all sorts of different ways. Children can use rock number in imaginative play and can also play games with them.

Children can also begin to explore odd and even numbers by moving them into groups. This can be more obvious on the dice images as they can see how there is an ‘odd dot out’.

Take it further

See my post on games that can be played with numeral number rocks. These games such as Missing Numbers and Swapping Numbers are adult lead and support children to learn about the ordinal aspects of numbers.

Also see my post on using these rocks to practice the cardinal aspects of numbers.


Bellos, A. (2010). Alex’s adventures in numberland. London: Bloomsbury.

Haylock, D., & Cockburn, A. (2017). Understanding mathematics for young children (5th ed.). London: Sage Publications.

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