Everything You Need To Know About Numicon

Numicon, a Math Programme developed by the education publisher Oxford University Press is a resource used for introducing many concepts in arithmetics to students, particularly in their early years. It utilizes multi-sensory resources, which means it follows an approach where learning is through various ways such as visual, auditory, and tactile. 

The Numicon program promotes learning of abstract concepts through concrete models allowing children to begin their journey with pictorial representations and then move on towards more formal written methods. Learning through a multi-sensory approach enables children to have a rich learning experience and helps make abstract concepts more concrete. 

The program, with its visual and practical approach, helps all students learn effectively, including those who have a hard time learning from traditional methods. 

What age is Numicon for?

Numicon is a math curriculum designed for students of all ages. The program uses a unique system of numerals to help students understand mathematical concepts.

Numicon is divided into three levels:

  • Primary: Primary level is for students aged 4-7
  • Intermediate: Intermediate level is for students aged 8-11
  • Secondary: Secondary level is for students aged 12-14.

Each level builds on the concepts learned in the previous level, ensuring that students are well-prepared for the next stage of their education. 

What can be taught with Numicon?

Numicon uses a specially designed set of shapes with holes in them, with each shape representing a number from one to ten. Each number has its own color. The purpose of numicon is to make numbers real and concrete for students by allowing them to see and touch them. This also facilitates the understanding of the relationship between numbers and how they fit together. 


Students progress through different stages using numicons such as pattern-finding shapes that match, ordering-putting shapes into sequences in ascending or descending order, and counting each hole one by one to find what number is represented by which shape.

Numicon can also be used to teach place value, fractions, and measurement. In addition, Numicon can be used as a tool for problem-solving and reasoning. Some of the concepts that can be learned through Numicon are:

1. Place value

Numicon can be a useful tool to understand place value and can be utilized in fun learning activities. Students can be taught place value through this method by including concrete shapes to create numbers. For example, to create the number 24, 2 ten-sided sheets and 4 one-sided sheets will be put together. This will teach them that the digit 2 in the number 24 represents tens and 4 represents ones. 

2. Addition and subtraction

Addition and subtraction are two concepts that can be taught by Numicon quite effectively. This is because by applying the visual and concrete methods of Numicon students can actually see and themselves do addition and subtraction of real objects. When students will pick up the shapes used in Numicon and put them together, or take them away while subtraction, their understanding will become clear and solid. 

3. Fractions

A fraction is a part of a whole number. For example, if you have four cookies and eat two of them, you have eaten two-fourths, or half, of the cookies. Numicon can help your child visualize fractions and understand how they work. You can use Numicon to represent a whole number as a circle. Then, you can use different fractions of the circle to represent different fractions. For example, if you want to represent the fraction “one-half,” you would use half of the circle. If you want to represent the fraction “one-fourth,” you would use one-fourth of the circle.

4. Algebra

Algebra is a branch of mathematics that uses variables to represent numbers. Variables are letters that stand for numbers. For example, the variable “x” could represent the number 5. The variable “y” could represent the number 10. You can use Numicon to help your child visualize algebraic equations by representing each variable with a different shape. For example, you could use five 1-sided shapes to represent the variable “x” and ten 10-sided shapes to represent the variable “y.” Then, you can use addition and subtraction to solve for the value of the variables.

As a teacher or an educator, if you are interested in using Numicon, you should know a few things

  • First, Numicon is not a stand-alone program. It is designed to be used as part of a comprehensive instructional approach. In order to be effective, Numicon must be used along with other teaching strategies and materials.
  • Numicon is also not a “quick fix” solution. It is a powerful tool that can help improve understanding and achievement, but it takes time and effort to implement effectively.

Numicon: What does science say?

Numicon has been found to be effective[1] in many ways including encouragement of mathematical thinking and aptitude. Students taught through the multi-sensory approaches of Numicon have been shown to work faster and more fluently than when they were taught from other resources. This was attributed to the semantic way of learning through numicon which provided children a good knowledge of the resource and the concepts taught through it.

The evidence[2] gathered on the effectiveness of the Numicon method has reported notable success for children in providing stimulating and productive learning environments. Students taught through Numicon have shown to develop genuine understandings of calculation and mathematical thinking together with strong mathematical self-confidence. 

A recent study[3] showed that Numicon-based instruction led to significant improvements in test scores, with the biggest gains being seen in students who had previously struggled with math. This is because the shapes used in Numicon are based on the patterns of nature, which are inherently intuitive. As a result, Numicon provides a strong foundation for understanding the concepts of place value and operations.

Pros and Cons

The uniqueness of Numicon makes it stand out and even though it was originally developed in the UK, its use has become more prevalent around the world. The stimulation that Numicon provides students creates a desire for them to learn. Although the Numicon method has been praised well, it may have its own limitations.

Pros of numicon

  • The pieces are colorful and attractive, which makes them engaging for children.
  • They are also easy to handle and manipulate, which makes them ideal for hands-on learning.
  • In addition, the pieces can be used to represent a wide range of mathematical concepts, making Numicon a versatile teaching tool.
  • Numicon can be easily adapted to meet the needs of individual students. For example, if a child is struggling with addition or subtraction, the teacher can use Numicon shapes to physically demonstrate the concept. 

Cons of numicon

  • Numicon pieces can be expensive and often only available in certain colors and sizes.
  • In addition, the pieces can be easily lost or misplaced, frustrating for teachers and students.
  • Numicon is too simplistic and does not provide enough challenges for advanced students.

Overall, Numicon is a valuable teaching aid that has some clear advantages and disadvantages.


Numicon is a method of teaching math developed with the purpose of allowing children to learn through various ways such as using concrete objects, seeing pictorial representations, and so on. This multi-sensory approach of Numicon makes it an effective and unique method and also helps students begin to build a foundation for mathematical concepts. It has been shown to encourage students to develop an aptitude for math and promote thinking mathematically instead of merely memorizing concepts and formulas through traditional methods. It can be a time-consuming and expensive way of teaching, but with planning and effort, its results can be achieved. 


  1. Scerri, D. (2016, October 10). OAR@UM: The use of Numicon® as a resource for learning addition and subtraction in early childhood education. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://www.um.edu.mt/library/oar/handle/123456789/12727
  2. Wing, T. (2007). Gathering Evidence for Numicon (1997-2007). Original TTA Teacher Research Projects (1996-8).
  3. Bird, J. N. S. B. G. (2021, August 19). Evaluating the Numicon system as a tool for teaching number skills to children with Down syndrome. Retrieved September 6, 2022, from https://library.down-syndrome.org/en-us/news-update/05/1/evaluating-numicon-system-tool-teaching-number-skills-down-syndrome/

Leave a Comment