The Real Number Line – In Practice

Image by:  Samana

A little while back I wrote a blog post about how the typical math number line needs an upgrade.  You can find that post here.  I thought and still think that the general math number line that is introduced at the elementary level needs to be enhanced.

I believe that students should encounter all types of numbers on a number line. Students should find whole numbers, decimals, square roots, fractions, percentages, mixed numbers, etc.  Of course, the concept needs to be age appropriate .  So, in my last post I wrote about how students should understand the real math number line.  In theory it sounded like an idea that could be put into practice.  I decided to find out how the theory looked in practice.  I asked students to create a math number line with multiple components. This activity fit in well with the decimal and fraction unit that I’m currently teaching.  I gave each student learning group a sheet like the one below and a specific number range (like numbers 3 – 6).

Every student worked on this project in a cooperative group. Through this experience, I believe the students had a unique opportunity to learn about the many different ways that numbers can be represented.  See below for examples.

Overall, students were engaged and thoroughly enjoyed the activity.  At the end of the project, I facilitated an informal plus/delta chart and the feedback was generally positive.   While students were in their cooperative groups I overheard them debate the differences and similarities of fractions, square roots, decimals, improper fractions, and mixed numbers on the number line.  It was a great learning experience and definitely a project I’ll put in the plan book for next year.

Disclaimer (unfortunate but necessary) : The thoughts and opinions expressed in these pages are my own, and not necessarily the opinions of my employers.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

9 thoughts on “The Real Number Line – In Practice”

  1. Love this idea. I am also going to have them put a few irrational numbers on their number lines. Then I am going to make one very large (from tile to ceiling) ongoing number line in my classroom. Great idea! Thanks for sharing.


  2. I love this idea! I especially like the possibility of differentiating for different ability levels in the classroom. This could be done through different number ranges (some include negatives) or different types of numbers to add.


  3. I agree with all previous comments — I love this idea! I love how you introduce the topic by stating the “traditional number line needs an upgrade”. So true! I’m using this for my 8th graders as they are now learning about irrational numbers and square roots. Excellent! Thank you so much for posting! I would still love to know where you purchased the poster from….


    1. Jill,

      I appreciate the kind words and am glad to hear that this works in your classroom. The poster that you’re referring to was part of a math resource purchased by my district around 8 years ago. The ISBN is 9780076089642. I’m not sure if they are still available. Thanks for stopping by!



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