Math and Numerals (August 2015)

Ūnus, duō, trēs Rōmānī…

This month, we are focusing on math and numerals in Latin and the ancient world. Inside this issue: adding Latin numbers, Roman numerals BINGO, Hypatia the Mathematician, Roman Numerals dice, and more!

Email us to suggest a topic for a future issue!


Main Feature: Two New Lesson Plans
Each issue will feature two lesson or activity ideas: one related to the Latin language, and one related to Classical Studies (Greek or Roman culture, mythology, or history).


Background: The Latin words numbers are helpful to know because of the many derivatives we have in English. Students will be amazed by how many English words they can think of which are related to numbers, and this activity will further solidify their understanding while also helping younger students solve basic math problems.

Introduction: This is a basic introduction to Latin numbers, which includes a worksheet with math problems written in Latin, as well as a game.

Objectives: Students will produce Latin names for numbers. Students will strengthen their knowledge of Latin number words, which will help build English vocabulary.

Special Concerns: To help students become comfortable with the format before they do a worksheet, it may be helpful to put together a PowerPoint presentation of images. For example, teachers can show a picture of two students standing next to three students, and have the class count as a group. Before long, students will be able to do math problems in Latin without needing to count from one. If students already know Roman numerals, some math problems might include them (V + IV = IX).



  1. Teach students Latin numbers by counting objects (either real or on a projection) as a class. Students can then fill in the Latin words for the numbers on the Numbers Handout.
  2. In groups, have students complete the math worksheet. Younger students may need assistance with some of the longer Latin sentences, so a vocabulary list has been provided on the worksheet’s second page.
  3. To practice saying the Latin numbers and counting in Latin, the class can play the BUZZ Game, either in one large group or in smaller groups:
    • Students stand in a circle. The first person says, “Unus.” The second says, “Duo.” The third says, “Tres,” and so on. Students must try to remember the next Latin word in the counting sequence.
    • In addition, the tricky part to this game is that anytime the number contains a seven (7, 17, 27, etc.) or is a multiple of seven (7, 14, 21, etc.), the student must say “Buzz” instead of the number.
    • A student who makes a mistake is “out,” and play continues until only one student remains.
    • While students are still learning, it is helpful to let them use their Numbers Handout or to project a list of the numbers for all to see.
  4. As an optional follow-up activity, students could take a quiz, design their own math problems, or complete a similar worksheet on their own for homework.

II. Roman Numerals BINGO

Background: Roman numerals are everywhere: on clocks, the Superbowl ads, chapter headings, and more! These are important numbers for children to learn even if they never have studied Latin.

Introduction: This is a fun way to learn and practice Roman numerals, using a bingo sheet and a student’s knowledge of Ancient Rome and classical mythology.

Objectives: Students will review the formation of Roman numerals while also recalling some important numbers from Ancient Rome and classical mythology.

Special Concerns: Teachers can adapt the prompts to best fit their particular curriculum. Furthermore, teachers may want to have an extra activity to transition to once students complete their bingo board.



  1. Give each student a BINGO board and a way to mark his or her squares.
  2. Have each student fill out the board with Roman numerals 1-24, and remind them to write them in random order so that no two boards are the same.
  3. Read out the prompts and help students remember the relevant number and the Roman numeral for each clue.
  4. After each prompt is read, the student marks the BINGO square that contains the corresponding Roman numeral.
  5. The first student to get five in a row wins!

Additional Activities:
For additional practice with Roman numerals, students might enjoy the following games and resources:

  • Roman Numeral “Go Fish” – A favorite for many years among the younger students at our LatinSummer programs!
  • Roman Numeral “Twenty-Four” – This is a Roman numeral version of the modern math game, “Twenty-Four.” Print and cut out the cards. Two or three students look at one card and must determine how the four numbers on the card should be added, subtracted, multiplied, or divided in order to reach a final answer of “24.”
  • Article on Roman Numerals from Peter Kay at – contains information on topics such as how to read Roman numerals, their origin, the Roman concept of zero, Roman numerals in the Middle Ages and Medieval period, modern uses of Roman numerals plus much more, including a handy chart and online converter tool.


Online Resource: Roman Numerals Game
Each issue will feature a new or popular online resource that could prove useful for Latin and Classical Studies instruction. We aim to stay current so that you can wow your students with how “with-it” you are when it comes to technology!

This is a fun and simple computer game in which students build a column by correctly forming Roman numerals. This game is best played individually, though it may be helpful to project the game on the board and practice as a class before students work on their own.


Famous Romans: Hypatia the Mathematician
Each issue will feature a famous individual from Greek or Roman history whom you may wish to explore with your students.

Hypatia, a Roman woman who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, was the first known woman mathematician. She lived from 355-413 AD and was an astronomer and philosopher who is still praised today for her work in mathematics. She had a unique life for a woman of her time because she never married and was a Neoplatonist (considered pagan) at a time when Christianity was on the rise in the Roman Empire. Alexandria became particularly violent as fights broke out between Christians, Jews, and pagans. Tragically, Hypatia was killed by a Christian mob, but her contributions to mathematics have made her a famous name throughout history.


Random Find: Roman Numeral Dice
Many items being sold today do not directly connect to Latin and Classical Studies, but with a little effort, we can adapt them to serve our purposes. This section explores these types of objects.

Skye Shirley, writer for The Shooting Star, thought it would be fun to make Roman Numeral dice, and then she thought to look online and see if someone had already come up with the idea!

Possibility #1: Easy game: Best of Three (for elementary age students)
Put each student in a pair or a group of three. Each student rolls a die and whoever has the highest number wins that round. If there is a tie, the tied players must roll their dice again. Whoever wins the most rounds out of three wins the game.

Possibility #2: Harder game: Rolling Math Problems (for older students)
In pairs or groups of three, students roll two dice. Students must speak in Latin the two numbers rolled and then add them. For example, if a student rolls II and VI, he or she would say, “duo et sex efficiunt octo.”


Featured Word: digit
Each issue will feature a challenging English word that we encourage you and your students to explore together. The English word will always come from one or more Latin words.

“Digitus,” the Latin word for “finger,” is the root of many words we have that relate to counting or math. A “digit” can refer to any numeral from 0 to 9 and also to a finger or toe. A “digital watch” is one which has numbers on it instead of hands. One other fun derivative of “digitus” is the word “prestidigitation,” which refers to magic tricks performed as entertainment. Ask students if they can figure out how “prestidigitation” relates to “digitus,” the Latin word for “finger.”


Advice & Questions:
Q: As I prepare for the new school year, what resources would you recommend that I consider using with my students, who are in elementary school?

A: One of our favorite texts for students beginning their study of Latin in elementary school is Minimus. This series is a mixture of mythology, stories, grammar support, and historical background, and it has been featured in our LatinSummer programs and Let’s Learn Latin workshops for years. As a member, you have access to a long list of Minimus Extension Activities, which can be accessed from the members’ Exclusive Materials page (the first item under “Latin Materials”). These extension activities are additional language, culture, and mythology activities that relate to the topics in each chapter of Minimus. More than thirty ready-to-use attachments – such as handouts, worksheets, templates, and song-sheets – accompany these extension activities and can also be downloaded from the Exclusive Materials page.

Also, don’t forget about our new eTogaTrek video series, which is available at for free! Each video features a different topic about Roman culture and presents a hands-on activity for students to do.