Roman numerals activities

These fun activities to investigate Roman numerals cover both maths and history for key stage 2 children. The National Curriculum requires children to be taught about the impact of the Roman Empire on Britain and also in year 5 to be able to read Roman numerals to 100 and understand how they evolved to include zeros and the concept of place value.

Whilst Arabic numerals (digits 0-9) are most widely used today, Roman numerals are still used on clocks and to number chapters of books. Investigating where Roman numerals are used today  demonstrates both their relevance and limitations in the modern world.

The Basics of Romans Numerals

1 = I

5 = V

10 = X

50 = L

100 = C

500 = D

1000 = M

With just these few symbols, Romans could write thousands of numbers.

Did You Know? The Romans didn’t have a symbol for 0.

There Are Also Some Rules When Reading or Writing Roman Numerals

The values for Roman Numerals are added together to give the number except when a smaller number comes just before a number, then it will be subtracted e.g.

III = (1+1+1)=3

IV  = (5-1)=4

11C = (100-2)= 98

XXIX = (10+10+(10-1) = 29

Roman coins

Roman Numeral Activities

Here are just a few fun activities to help children to learn how to use Roman numerals:

  • Identify and create posters showing where Roman numerals are still used today. Google images can be useful for finding pictures.
  • Using double sided Roman numeral cards, work in pairs or groups to order them and translate them into arabic numerals.
  • Roman numeral snap – this fun card game challenges children using pictures where Roman numerals are still used and sums.
  • For outdoor learning use sticks on the ground or chalk on a playground to create Roman numerals. They could also be used to create a giant clock face with Roman numerals on the floor.
  • Glue match sticks or lolly sticks to black paper in the shapes of the different Roman numerals to create a display.
  • Make Roman coins using clay and use to practice counting and paying on a pretend Roman market stall using Roman numerals.
  • Use Roman paper (papyrus) to practice writing Roman numerals.
  • Create sums using Roman numerals which can then be swapped with a partner to complete. Compare how different these sums are compared to sums using arabic numerals and discuss why this is (hint: how do zeros and place value make it easier to add/ subtract?)

Can you think of any other Roman numeral activities? Discover our range of Roman learning resources or visit our Roman activities page.
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