Teaching Dyscalculic Students Series
by Jan Thomson-Long
What is Numberness?
Numberness is the overall term for the attributes of a number.
For example, when you start to teach a child about the number ‘one’ they will learn that one item is one, whether that item is a cat, a dog, a ball, a sweet there is a single item and that is one.
We can express one as a symbol which represents one being 1, and it doesn’t matter what font we write that symbol it is still one. We also use lots of words which mean one such as single, solo, a, and other languages have words for one. This is ‘oneness’.
One is the first cardinal number. Likewise, two is the second cardinal number, represented by the symbol 2 and has other words which indicate two such as pair, dual, couple, and the prefix bi. I could continue but it’s more fun to set you the challenge of thinking of all the words which mean two. This is ‘twoness’.
As the numbers get larger, we can start to show them as expressions of other numbers already learnt. So the ‘threeness’ of three is three items, whatever those items are, a combination of one plus two, or two plus one, three on it’s own. The symbol 3, again the font doesn’t matter. Language-wise triple, third, tr- as a prefix, few is 3 (or maybe more).
Numberness is important as it’s the basis of our whole number system. Many children just ‘get this’ but it does need to be explicitly taught to those who are struggling with numbers.