Sunday, April 12, 2015

3 Reasons You Should Teach Roman Numerals (Grades 3-5)

Do you teach students how to read Roman Numerals?  It might not be part of your third, fourth, or fifth grade curriculum but it's an important real life skill that uses higher level thinking, is a part of history, and is kind of like solving a mystery.  AND . . . learning about Roman Numerals can be a stand-alone no-prep unit that you can leave with confidence for a substitute teacher that students will have a day full of learning.  Roman Numerals can be taught any time of year, too.
Roman numerals are an important part of history, and we still see Roman numerals in use today. Roman numerals are used for drama and effect, or to make things seem important such as with Kings like Edward the IV. Popes are named using this system as well, for example John Paul II. The most recognized use today is likely sporting events such as Super Bowl XX , and the XXVII Olympic Games. Films, videos and copyrights routinely use Roman numbers for tracking. We also see and use them to mark documents, often adding an air of importance to the work.  They are used in medicine, too.  Did you know that the cranial nerves are labeled with Roman Numerals?
Students find Roman Numerals fun to use and somewhat cryptic, almost like a breaking a secret code. And who doesn’t love a good mystery to get students engaged?   Or how about trying to read the game number for the the big football game?
The use of Roman numerals helps students critical thinking and mental flexibility. I use them as a fun engaging way to help teach math concepts of addition, subtraction and place value. Students never get enough practice with equalities. Try balancing them Roman style!

Roman Numerals can be confusing for students (and adults). Let's see... if the "I" is before the "V" do I add or subtract? Students need lots of practice to really get this skill, especially when they need to convert large numbers, like figuring out copyright dates of books.
Teach students how to break down large numbers into smaller ones - like using expanded notation with Roman Numerals.  It's easy when you know how!
Here are a few more real life examples to inspire you and your students!
  • Roman Numerals are used to number the cranial nerves!  This will inspire those kids who have a dream of working in the field of medicine. 
  • Roman numerals are used on old fashion clocks
  • They're used in the sport of football to number the Super Bowl!  Those kids who love sports will be intrigued by this one. 
  • They're used when someone has the same name for many generations, ex: Robert Griffin III, a football quarterback, Pope Benedict XVI, Kind Edward VII of England.
  • They're on old historic buildings.  The history buffs out there will love being able to decipher what the buildings say.
  • They are used for film copyright dates.
  • They are used to number pages in books, especially on the preliminary pages.
  • They number paragraphs in complicated, and long documents. 
  • They are used in teaching music and music theory.
If you teach Roman Numerals to grades 3-5, you are going to love a few new items I just finished up. I created a Roman Numerals Interactive Notebook set and a set of Roman Numeral posters, then bundled the two to save you money.  This makes a great math center, too!
Do you teach Roman Numerals?  Leave a comment about what grade level you are and how you teach it!
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