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Number Formation

By Admin, on 16 December 2022

By Tugce Cetiner


Number writing is a significant handwriting skill because it is positively related to academic performance (Dinehart & Manfra, 2013). There are different systems for number writing including the Roman numeral system and the Hindu-Arabic or Arabic system that is commonly used in the UK.

As the brain loves automaticity as that frees up thinking space to do other things (such as working out number problems whilst writing them down), it is important to always use the same formation when writing a number. For example, to write the number 7, it is necessary to start from the top and go down. This allows the creation of motor memory in the brain. Motor memory allows us to perform a specific motor task (e.g., handwriting) with minimum cognitive resources (Magill & Anderson, 2010).

Boy writing a number in a plate full with sugar with a skewer

photo copyright by Dr Jo Van Herwegen

When learning to write down numbers, the first thing children need is motor planning. Motor planning is the process of creating a plan to complete motor tasks before starting the task (Magill & Anderson, 2010). Motor planning includes all components of the task like “Where should I start?”, or “Which way should I draw the line?”. Due to their motor memory, children can remember all these components with minimum cognitive resources once learned how to write a number, allowing number writing to become automated. Thus, cognitive resources can instead be used for mathematical operations as well as to think about which number to write rather than how to write the number.

Automation of number writing can be achieved through increasing the repetition of practice trials. Using the correct starting point during these trials is important as it is allowed to create the correct motor memory. Moreover, using different activities such as different rhythm / song, and different sensory inputs  (e.g., writing in the air, writing with different pens or painting) also help to children to create better motor memory.


About the author:

Tugce Cetiner is currently a PhD student at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society, in the department of Psychology and Human Development. Her PhD focuses on the motor skills of autistic children. She developed a motor-based early intervention program to support the handwriting (including number formation) of young autistic children aged 4-5 years. This program can be implemented in the homes of parents of young autistic children.



Dinehart, L. & Manfa, L. (2013). Associations between low-income children’s fine motor skills in preschool and academic performance in second grade. Early Education & Development, 24(2), 138-161.

Tucha, O., Tucha, L., & Lange, K. W. (2008). Graphonomics, automaticity and handwriting assessment. Literacy, 42(3), 145-155.

Dinehart, L. H. (2015). Handwriting in early childhood education: Current research and future implications. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy15(1), 97-118.

Feder, K. P., & Majnemer, A. (2007). Handwriting development, competency, and intervention. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology49(4), 312-317.

Magill, R., & Anderson, D. (2010). Motor learning and control. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing.

Lage, G. M., Ugrinowitsch, H., Apolinário-Souza, T., Vieira, M. M., Albuquerque, M. R., & Benda, R. N. (2015). Repetition and variation in motor practice: a review of neural correlates. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 57, 132-141.

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