What Are Cardinal Numbers? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:03 Cardinal Numbers
  • 1:10 Ordinal & Nominal Numbers
  • 2:02 Cardinal vs. Ordinal …
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: T.J. Hoogsteen

T.J. is currently a grade 5 teacher and Vice-Principal. He has a master's degree in Educational Administration and is working toward an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.

Have you ever heard numbers called cardinal numbers? Have you wondered what that means? This lesson will explain what they are and also give some examples.

Cardinal Numbers

What are cardinal numbers? This is an interesting question because the word cardinal makes me picture a couple different things. First, I think of the famous fierce red bird. Could cardinal numbers be referring to their population? Or another thought that comes to mind is the professional baseball team. The players all wear jerseys with numbers on them; could this be what is meant by cardinal numbers?

The truth is neither of those possibilities answers the question as to what cardinal numbers are. Cardinal numbers are numbers that tell how many of something there are, such as one, two, three, four, or five. They answer the question, How many? For example: How many baseballs are in this picture?

Cardinal Numbers

The answer to this question is that there are 6 baseballs in the picture. Therefore, the cardinal number is 6. One important thing to remember is that cardinal numbers do not include decimals or fractions; they are only used for simple counting and show quantity.

Ordinal & Nominal Numbers

There are a couple of other types of numbers that can be confused for cardinal numbers, and they are ordinal numbers and nominal numbers. Ordinal numbers tell the position of something on a list. For example, words like first, second, and third are ordinal numbers. An example of a question using ordinal numbers is: What type of ball is third in line?


Looking at this picture, a baseball is third in line.

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