Getting Ready for Place Value: What Is a Digit?

Contributor: Veronica Barna. Lesson ID: 10612

Look at "12;" what do you see? You might think of months of the year, the face of a clock, or how many donuts you'd like! There is more: You see a number, digits, and a numeral! Learn what they are!


Counting and Cardinality

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
PreK/K, Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


How many crayons are on the floor next to Math Girl? Count them out loud. Then, read on to find out if you are correct and what is so important about that number!

math girl

If you said eight, you are correct!

  • Did you know that 8 is a number, a numeral, and a digit?

That is a lot of responsibility for a number, and Math Girl is here to teach you some super powerful math words that will help you understand the value of a numeral and the difference between numbers, numerals, and digits!

A number is the value or quantity (the amount) you think of when you are counting. For example, how many kittens do you see in this picture:


That's right, there are five kittens. We use the number 5 to show the quantity of kittens. A number is a symbol used in counting.

Let's try another example. This time, use numbers to count and keep track of the quantity, or amount, of cupcakes. Count each cupcake out loud.

  • What is the quantity of cupcakes?


If you counted 10, that's right. You used numbers, which are symbols that show quantity.

Now, on a piece of paper, write the number of your favorite cupcake. It doesn't matter if you wrote 2 or 10 (or any other number). What does matter is that you just wrote a numeral. A numeral is what math people call written numbers.

(Remember, a number is a symbol for amount, quantity, or value — just like a heart ♥ is a symbol for love).

Every numeral has one or more digits. Digits are the quantity of numbers in a numeral! Don't be confused; it's simple.

For example, the number 1 is written as the numeral 1, and it has one digit. While the number 10 is written with the numerals 1 and 0, and it has two digits.

  • How many digits are in the numeral 6,543?

Count out loud . . . That's right! There are 4 digits in the numeral 6,543.

Here is a fun video, from Math & Learning Videos 4 Kids, that explains the difference between numerals and digits. Watch What is a Digit? - Math Video for Kids:

We use ten numbers to write numerals, and numerals can have several digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. You can use these numbers alone or in any combinations of digits to make any numeral in the whole world!

When you are ready, continue on to the Got It? section to show what you know!

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