Idioms and Numbers – Adding up the Links between Literacy and Numeracy

Have you ever noticed just how many English idioms have numbers in them?


Here are just a few examples – there are loads of them.


  • All rolled into one.
  • Back to square one.
  • Cast the first stone.
  • I don’t give 2 hoots.
  • In two minds.
  • Nine to five.
  • Catch 40 winks.
  • Go fifty-fifty.
  • Feel like a million dollars
  • Give me five!
  • Hundred to one
  • On cloud nine


And here are a few ideas for activities to do with children.


  1. Research more like these below - categorise them according to their number.
  2. Which number seems to appear the most often in idioms?
  3. Categorise them according to whether they are divisible by 2 (or another number of your choice)
  4. Pick out 5 randomly and add them up – first one to get the right answer scores a point.
  5. Make up a quiz for someone else to do :


E.g. The film star arrived wearing her very best clothes:

(a)    All rolled into one   (b) a stich in time  (c) at sixes and sevens  (d) dressed to the nines.


You know -nine times out of ten children will enjoy making links between language and numeracy.


If you agree – that’ll make at least two of us


(Ok I’ll stop now!!)

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