Practicing German numbers

With the start of every semester, it’s time to teach beginners German numbers (the subject of this post). And any time is a good time to review numbers with the intermediate and sometimes even advanced students of German. The key to learning and remembering is repetition, practice, and more repetition. Practice with a partner or practice alone. But whenever possible, practice aloud rather than silently.

Here are some activities instructors can use in the classroom or students can use at home for practicing German numbers.

German numbers – Beginner activities

I always start by teaching beginners the basics to 100, first the individual numbers from 0 (don’t forget null!) to 20, and then 21 to 30 to demonstrate the inversion of digits connected by und, and then finally the remaining multiples of 10 to 100. And then the students practice. They practice immediately, they practice for homework, and they engage in more activities for review.

1. Alternate counting

These activities are designed for practice with a partner, but learners could also use most of them independently without alternating.

♦ Alternate counting with a partner.

BEISPIEL: S1: eins – S2: zwei – S1: drei – S2: vier

♦ Alternate counting in pairs of numbers.

BEISPIEL: S1: eins, zwei – S2: drei, vier– S1: fünf, sechs – S2: sieben, acht

♦ Alternate counting by twos (even).

BEISPIEL: S1: zwei– S2: vier– S1: sechs– S2: acht

♦ Alternate counting by twos (odd).

BEISPIEL: S1: eins – S2: drei – S1: fünf – S2: sieben

♦ Alternate counting by fives.

BEISPIEL: S1: fünf – S2: zehn – S1: fünfzehn – S2: zwanzig 

♦ Alternate counting by tens.

BEISPIEL: S1: zehn – S2: zwanzig – S1: dreißig – S2: vierzig 

Continue with each activity as long as you want. The longer you go, the higher the numbers practiced. I usually have students transition to the next activity after a couple of minutes with each one.

2. Reading numbers

Students can practice reading strings of numbers aloud. I like to present them as page numbers, but they can be any random numbers really. The last few may be challenging. They present the opportunity to talk about German numbers over 100.


3. Conversation with numbers

Teach conversational German that requires the use of numbers. Most of these activities are best done with groups of learners.

♦ Find out the ages of your classmates. Ask at least 5 people.

BEISPIEL: S1: Wie alt bist du? – S2: Ich bin _____ Jahre alt.

If necessary, review: Wie heißt du? / Ich heiße …

♦  Practice asking for and giving addresses and telephone numbers. Teach the appropriate phrases using the examples.

German numbers - addresses and telephone numbers

♦ Ask for each other’s telephone numbers and addresses.

German numbers - Addresses and telephone numbers 2

4. Mathematik

First, students can work together reading and solving the math problems aloud. As a follow-up, the instructor can orally ask for solutions to new math equations so that students are listening only and not seeing the numbers. This is a good way to quickly check aural comprehension.

German numbers - Addition

5. Listening

Read German numbers out loud and have students write what they hear. There are many ways to execute this idea.

♦ Read off a list of numbers that students write down.

♦ Give students a page with several random numbers on it and have them draw a line from one to the other in the order in which they are read.

♦ Create a simple dictation text in which students fill in the blanks with the numbers they hear. For example:

German numbers - Dictation

♦ Make an inventory form and prepare a text from the perspective of a person who has recently taken inventory in the language lab. Students write the numbers they hear on the appropriate lines.

German numbers - Listening - Inventory

German numbers – Intermediate activities

6. Mathematik

German numbers - Multiplication flashcards

Continuing with the math theme, math flashcards are a fun way for students to practice numbers. Partners take turns reading equations and solutions aloud. Equations are written in numerals on the front and the solutions are written as a word on the back so that students can check themselves as they go through the cards. You could turn this into a challenge to see how many cards each pair can correctly solve in a given allotment of time.

The last two pages (four pages back and front) of the cards have more advanced multiplication problems. If you don’t want to use them, you can simply omit them when printing.

DOWNLOAD free printable German numbers flashcards

Refer to the instructions for printing double-sided flash cards on the last page of the download.

7. Reading numbers

German numbers - Reading numbers flashcards

Understanding German numbers when spoken and reading German numerals aloud can be a challenge for learners at all levels. Numbers appear in many configurations and contexts — simple cardinal numbers (eins, zwei, drei), yes, but also clock times, dates and years, percentages and decimals, measurements and distances, currency, statistics, and more. They appear readily in spoken and written language.

I notice that intermediate and sometimes even advanced students are often still stumbling over numbers when they appear in the middle of an article or story that they are reading aloud. With this in mind, I created a set of number reading cards. Like the math flash cards, the number reading flash cards have the number in numerals on the front and the German word written on the back.

The cards on the last page of the set (two pages back and front) contain ordinal numbers. If you don’t want to have students practice ordinals, you can omit those pages when printing.

DOWNLOAD free printable German numbers flashcards  

Refer to the instructions for printing double-sided flash cards on the last page of the download.

German numbers – Advanced activities

Advanced learners will be fairly proficient in using numbers. However, sometimes larger numbers still present difficulties. And reciting German numbers within a context rather than in isolation can be challenging, particularly because a reader must quickly express the numbers printed on the page in words.

Any of the activities described above could be adapted for the advanced level. Students can practice using the various alternate counting activities for beginners, but using higher numbers. You could add a timer to make the activity even more challenging. Also appropriate for this level are listening comprehension activities containing numbers in different configurations. Here are some additional ideas and materials to help advanced students improve their comprehension and production of German numbers.

8. Listening for numbers

News broadcasts frequently contain numbers of all sorts — percentages, data, dates, economic and financial information, measurements, temperatures, and more. Pre-screen a news broadcast and play it for students. Have them record all of the numbers they hear in the news broadcast. Or supply a listening comprehension page like the beginner one above for taking inventory (Inventar). Provide the labels for the numbers read (What is being counted or measured? _____ Menschen, _____ Prozent der Einwohner Berlins, etc.) and have students fill in the numbers they hear. These sites have short news broacdasts that can be used for this purpose.

Deutsche Welle Nachrichten – Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten or Nachrichten im Orginaltempo – These are accompanied by a written manuscript so you can scan it quickly for numbers before using.

Tagesschau in 100 Sekunden

ZDF heute – 100 Sekunden

9. Reading numbers

Students at this level still sometimes stumble over numbers when reading them in a German text. Instead of having them read numbers in isolation, I like to have them practice reading texts containing numbers aloud to help them learn to read more fluidly. There are unlimited sources online you could go to for such reading materials. Here are a few good texts for this purpose.

Starker Wirtschaftsstandort im globalen Markt (Tatsachen über Deutschland)

♦ Die Trends der demografischen Entwicklung (Tatsachen über Deutschland)

♦ Migration  und Integration (Tatsachen über Deutschland)

♦ Das Statistik-Portal – Charts and grapics are often accompanied by number-rich texts explaning what the chart shows.

10. Mathematik

Yes, math again. Math to promote advanced language skills would be best with addition and subtraction problems so it’s more about the language than about the math. You could make a set of cards using two different color index cards — one color for the first number in the equation and one color for the final number in the equation. Students could just add or just subtract, alternate between addition and subtraction, or roll a die to determine whether to add (even) or subtract (odd). Or there could be a third set of cards that allows them to choose an operator at random.

You could also use a set of advanced addition and/or subtraction cards like the intermediate multiplication cards above (525 + 32, 1085 – 12). Would anyone be interested in a free downloadable set?

What other ideas and activities do you use to learn, practice, or teach German numbers? Share your ideas in the comments below!

3 comments on “Practicing German numbers
  1. i want to learn German well…

  2. Malkah Geller says:

    Vielen Dank für dieses Material. Es ist sehr gut.


  3. John Arnold Lohne, tel 46 735 211 600 Gothenburg, Sweden says:

    Number 7 is written by the older generation in Germany and Scandinavia as follows:
    a. down stroke on the left side
    b. curving wave from left to right
    c. down stroke to the right
    d. short horizontal line crossing c.
    This comes from a student at the Arabic university in Tunisia year 625 AD. who wrote 7 as above with 7 angles within the figure, also 1 angle in 1, 2 angles in 2, 3angles in number 3, etc.
    Our new generation write 7 simpler, and data displays even simplier.

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