Roman Numerals: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Dina Albert
In this lesson we will explore the ancient Roman method for writing numbers known as Roman numerals. You will learn to read numerals, as well as how to translate the numbers you already know into Roman numerals.

What Are Roman Numerals?

Roman numerals are a system that the ancient Romans used for writing numbers. This system only uses the letters I, V, X, L, C, D, M and these letters are combined to make different whole numbers.

The Roman Numeral System

Each letter in the system stands for a number.

I = 1

V = 5

X = 10

L = 50

C = 100

D = 500

M = 1000

Then there are rules that we can follow to figure out the value for any combination of letters.

  • Subtraction Rule: If the larger value letter is on the right side, we subtract the value of the letters.
  • Addition Rule: If the larger value letter is on the left side, we add the value of the letters

Let's practice our rules by comparing a clock with Roman numerals to a clock you may see in your classroom.


I matches with 1

II matches with 2

III matches with 3

IV matches with 4.

  • Since V has the largest value and is on the right side, we will subtract: V - I = 5 -1 = 4

V matches with 5

VI matches with 6.

  • Since V is the largest value and this time is on the left, we will add: V + I = 5 + 1 = 6

VII matches with 7.

  • Since V is the largest and on the left, we will add: V + I + I = 5 + 1 + 1 = 7

VIII matches with 8.

IX matches with 9.

  • Earlier we said that X = 10. Since X is the larger value on the right, we subtract 10 -1 = 9.

X matches with 10

XI matches with 11.

  • Since X is the largest value and is on the left, we add 10 + 1 = 11

XII matches with 12. X = 10, I = 1, I = 1. We will add 10 + 1 + 1 = 12

Very Large Numbers

What if we wanted to write the next few years in Roman numerals? Well, let's start with 2016 and go all the way to 2020. We will start by using the letter M, which stands for 1,000.

2016: 1,000 + 1,000 + 10 + 6, or M + M + X + VI

2016 = MMXVI

2017 = MMXVII

2018 = MMXVIII

2019 = MMXIX (because IX =9)

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