I'm always searching for better ways to teach and numbers are one of those things we all need to teach, but are difficult without resorting to teach them in order.

When school starts, instead of teaching the numbers 1-10, I start with the numbers that are most important to my students—their ages. I take a survey of all the ages that are represented in the room and I work those numbers into our conversations for the first couple of weeks.

I then move to teach the numbers 1-10. I do this in various ways keeping away from teaching them in order. When we do "Kindergarten Day" or talk about animals, pets, people, etc, I constantly ask students to tell me how many of something there are: how many eyes does the dog have?, how many tails does the cat have? how many legs does the octopus have? Once I'm confident that my students know the numbers 1-10 and the ages represented in the room (usually 14-16 and sometimes 17 and 18), I then start teaching the rest of the numbers "Sesame-Street" style.

Watching Sesame Street as a child, the Count always chose a number that would be the "magic" number of the episode. Every thing that can be counted in that episode used that special number of the day. I thought that was an effective method of teaching numbers without teaching them in order so I wanted to incorporate that into my own classroom.

So I start with the teens and chose a random number that I haven't covered yet and make that the number of the week. I write it on the board in English and the target language and leave it up all week so that it is easily visible to all students. Whenever I ask a question where the answer is a number, the students must use the number of the week. So for example, if the number of the week is 19, no matter what the question, if the answer is a number, the answer must be 19. How many eyes does the monster have? Nineteen. How old is the girl? Nineteen. How many children does the woman have? Nineteen. How many tails does the dog have? Nineteen. You get the point. I continue until I have taught all of the teens and now the students have a number vocabulary of 1-19.

I then choose a tens number. Again, I do this randomly so that it's not in order. I may choose fifty to be the number of the week next. I write the number fifty on the board in English and the target language and since the students already know the numbers 1-9, they can easily do 50-59 once they've been taught the number pattern of the target language.

So now that the number of the week is 50, every number answer must be between 50 and 59. After a week of using 50-59 every day, multiple times, the numbers should begin to sink into the students consciouses. If not, work the same number for the next week.

I continue this way until I teach all of the numbers from 0-99. Then I do the same thing with the hundreds. I choose one of the hundreds (again not in order) and make that a number of the week and work that number until it has been acquired by the students.

Building up the numbers this way allows the students to create new numbers based off previous knowledge of the numbers that come before.

After a few months of teaching the numbers "Sesame-Street" style, the numbers have become second nature to most students and not a mere afterthought of second-language instruction.

Any ideas or comments? I'd love to hear them.