Year 4 Maths

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Roman Numerals

The numerals we use most often - the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 - are called Arabic numerals because they were brought to Europe through contact with people from the area that was called Arabia. The ancient Romans used different symbols as their numerals. Even today you may come across Roman numerals on clocks and to number the first pages of books.

Here are some of the symbols that the Romans used:


I is 1
V is 5
X is 10

Those are all the symbols you need in order to write the numbers from 1 to 30. Here are the rules.

Rule 1

When a Roman numeral that is the same value or smaller comes after another numeral, you add the values together.

II = 1 + 1 = 2
XX = 10 + 10 = 20
XI = 10 + 1 = 11

Try to answer these:

roman numerals

Rule 2

When a Roman numeral of smaller value comes just before another, you subtract the smaller one from the larger one. IV Since I is less than V and comes before it, this is 5 - 1 = 4 IX Since I is less than X and comes before it, this is 10 - 1 = 9

Here's a problem for you. What's this number?

It's 10 + 10 + (10 - 1), or 29.

The Romans had just a few more symbols for their numbers:

L is 50
C is 100
D is 500
M is 1,000

These symbols, and the ones you learnt earlier, were the only number symbols they used and they could write thousands of numbers with them!

This activity is adapted from pages 2550-257 of What Your Year 4 Child Needs to Know, which can be purchased here. Click below to see the related activities:

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