How to Make a Number Line for the Classroom

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Integers numbers on the number line
In this example of a number line, you can see the negative numbers to the left of zero and the positive numbers to the right, all equally spaced. zizou7 / Shutterstock

A number line is a pictorial representation of real numbers. It is most commonly used in elementary math classes to help students compare numbers and perform arithmetic operations like addition, subtraction, division and multiplication.

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The first mention of using number lines for understanding operations appears in John Wallis’ “Treatise of Algebra.” Wallis uses the visual of a person walking from point to point along a straight path to represent the image of counting from one value to the next.

Using this example of someone moving forward and backward, a number line makes the most sense represented as a horizontal sequence of whole numbers, read from left to right.



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