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Why do some kids write numbers backwards?

By Elizabeth Babbin, EdD

Lots of young kids write numbers backwards. (Teachers may call it reversal.) In fact, it’s developmentally appropriate for kids under 7. But when kids are still reversing numbers after age 7, they may need extra help learning to write them correctly. 

When kids have trouble writing numbers the right way, it’s not a problem with understanding math. The numbers they’re using are correct — they’re just written incorrectly. Instead, it’s an issue of how their brain processes what they see.

Writing numbers backwards can cause challenges in math class or with homework, but it doesn’t mean kids are “bad at math.” 

Keep in mind, too, that some kids have a related difficulty that can impact math. They transpose numbers. Instead of writing 32, they’ll write 23. That throws off their computation and leads to wrong answers.

Dive deeper

When kids write letters backwards, too

It’s not uncommon for kids who write numbers backwards to also write letters backwards. Many people think that reversing letters is a sure sign of dyslexia. But that’s not true. The fact is, some kids with dyslexia write letters backwards, and some don’t. Common signs of dyslexia include trouble sounding out words or understanding what’s read.

Just like writing numbers backwards, writing letters backwards is common in young kids. Learn when kids typically stop writing letters backwards . And find out what “number dyslexia” means .

Next steps

There are no quick fixes when kids write numbers backwards. But using a multisensory approach can help kids learn to write numbers correctly over time. With this approach, kids use various senses to learn how to form numbers the right way.

Tracing numbers on sandpaper or writing them in pudding or shaving cream are examples of multisensory learning . See more multisensory techniques to help kids with:

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