Making Digits

Years K - 6


At first glance it may seem like this activity is just fooling around with something cute, but in fact the way the digits and letters are made in this activity involves the same principles that are used in any digital display sign. In fact, it may be a good idea to begin the activity by examining examples of digital displays. The activity is also directly related to the design of the Braille alphabet and a red board with yellow plugs (say) can be used to represent every character in that alphabet. A class set of boards can spell out words and sentences. This aspect of the activity could be used in cross-curriculum units in social education involving living with different abilities.



This activity was designed by Wendy Batchelor, Ruth Court, Dione Parker, Julie Jacobs, Kingston Primary School.


This is an investigation rather than a threaded activity, but it can be used over several lessons. It has the potential to be the basis of a project.
  • Find out how to place yellow plugs in the red frame to make each numeral 0 to 9. The length and width of each numeral must fit within the same size rectangle.
  • Record each one on Poly Plug Paper.
  • Find out where this way of 'writing' numerals is used in your community.


  • Find a way to use this system to display digital time with your Poly Plug boards. Can you display twenty-four hour digital time?
  • Make all the capital letters of the alphabet and record on Poly Plug Paper. This works well if a group of four work together and make one record for the group. Can you construct an alphabet in which all letters (upper and lower case) fit within the same size rectangle?
  • Research the Braille alphabet and create a Poly Plug version? Write your initials in plug Braille?


  • mathematical conversation
  • mathematics & literacy partnership
  • numeral recognition
  • problem solving
  • writing numerals

Calculating Changes ... is a division of ... Mathematics Centre