# How do you explain what a digit is?

Discussion in 'Primary' started by Time4Tea, Jan 11, 2012.

1. ### Time4TeaNew commenter

Anyone got a good way to explain what a digit is to lower ability Y2s?
I have tried saying that a digit is a bit like a letter in a word - "a" is a 1 letter word, but "a" can also be part of a longer word. Problem is, children who don't know what a digit is probably aren't that hot on the difference between letters and words either.
Anyone got a better way to explain?
Thanks.

2. ### Time4TeaNew commenter

Anyone got a good way to explain what a digit is to lower ability Y2s?
I have tried saying that a digit is a bit like a letter in a word - "a" is a 1 letter word, but "a" can also be part of a longer word. Problem is, children who don't know what a digit is probably aren't that hot on the difference between letters and words either.
Anyone got a better way to explain?
Thanks.

3. ### minnieminxNew commenter

I wouldn't bother giving them a big explanation.

Low ability year 2 children are presumably working at level 1 and so not really up to needing to know the difference between digit and number. Leave the explanation until they are further on in their maths learning.

4. ### sulas

it isn't really necessary to explain what a digit is - it would get really complicated. Instead i would simply use the word to refer to various numbers. if you use the word in context the children will pick up the meaning that can then be refined. Eg you can say something like look at these 2 digit numbers - then ask the chn to come up with further examples.
I'm not used to teaching ks1 but that is how i would go about it.

5. ### minnieminxNew commenter

I forgot to say what sulas said as well. I use the word in context, but I definitely don't bother to define it.

6. ### Time4TeaNew commenter

Ok, will re-phrase the question!
I think what I currently do IS mostly let them work out what digit means by telling them this is a 1 digit number, this is a 2 digit number.I'm not entirely satisfied with that as a teaching approach.
I have tried to explain but not come up with a definition I am happy with.
Does anyone else explain, at any point, what digit means? Or does everyone just let them work out for themselves by seeing the word used correctly?

Thanks!

7. ### minnieminxNew commenter

Yes but much, much later. Definitely not to those working at level 1. Explaining a concept to children who are not mathematically ready for it will always result in failure, however you do it.

I might say something like a digit is any of the symbols representing 0-9. Or, like you, use the analogy of letters and words. But this would be more when children are securely into level 3 really and so starting to understand decimals. Up until then I would just use the word as appropriate.

8. ### florapost

i really wouldn't go with the analogy with letters - it's not that true and so could be more confusing than helpful
there are 10 digits, 0 to 9 and we put them together to make numbers - going any further gets into the vexed question of place value. a digit represents different values depending on where in the number it is placed - so in 23 the digit 3 also represents the value 3, but the digit 2 represents the value 20.
in 237, the digit 2 represents the value 200 etc
place value is hard even for bright children in rec/y1, so will be for your y2's. counting is natural - one more and one more and one more etc. but to move from 9 to a new column ie 10, is an entirely man-made construct