Mom-to-Mom Support/Writing numbers backwards

Writing numbers backwards

Little girl writes with colored pencils


My 5-year-old daughter is using your Kindergarten curriculum and we enjoy it very much. However, I notice she writes almost all her numbers backwards. If I am watching her work and say “don’t write it backwards” before she starts writing the answer, she will pause, look at an example of the number and then very deliberately and slowly form it the correct way. But without any oversight (i.e. when I give her a worksheet to do on her own) she will automatically form them backwards and not really notice her mistakes. This has been going on since we started math. Is this true dyslexia that will need professional intervention, or something common that she will probably outgrow?

Dear Parent,

Thank you for your question. Be assured that many five-year-olds reverse both letters and numbers. Some children will reverse letters, especially b’s and d’s. Some children will reverse numbers, such as the number 3. Some children will reverse both letters and numbers. This is fairly normal, and it occurs because children are focusing upon the shape of the letter or number regardless of its position in a left-right orientation. That left-right movement is far more ingrained in an adult than it is in a child, and remember that our left-right orientation is arbitrary. If we lived in the Middle East, our orientation would be right-left, and if we lived in Asia, it would be different yet again. Our focus and orientation is culture-centered.

I would not worry about the reversals or correct her too much, especially if she is only reversing numbers. You might point out reversed numbers from time to time. If she continues regularly reversing numbers after the first semester of first grade, then I would have her begin making corrections more frequently.

If you do not notice at least a gradual diminishing by the middle of first grade, you may wish to have her tested for dyslexia at that time. You can have her tested free of charge at your local public school. The testing may be inconclusive, however.

If your daughter is not a visual learner, she may simply need more time to develop the right to left orientation. An auditory learner, for example, may be highly tuned into pitches and various levels of sound and be capable of memorizing melodies at an early age and yet not be clear about distinguishing or matching colors. A kinesthetic learner may have tremendous body control and enjoy many physical activities and develop hand-eye coordination early, but not be able to memorize music easily or adapt to reading smoothly. In addition, if she is left-handed, she may be more likely to reverse letters and numbers because her orientation to the paper is different. We live in a right-handed world for the most part.

So at this age, consider number reversals a normal stage of development and wait and see what next year will bring. You may wish to allow her free rein and save her papers, so that you can compare how she writes numbers today with how she writes at the end of this year. Having a written record will help you determine if she is catching her own errors.

God bless you,
Sandra Garant

About Sandra Garant

Sandra Garant is a veteran homeschooling mom, certified teacher, writer, attorney, and administrative law judge. She taught her three children at home until they were ready for college. She tutored students in writing for many years and is the author of Language of God, Level F and Language of God, Level G.