Simple Math Lessons for ESL Students: Counting to One Million

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In this lesson plan for math the ESL students will be able to recognize numbers, count by tens, and write up to 1,000,000. They will play games and make art that reinforces their learning.

When the students walk in the door, begin counting, starting at 0. Continue counting aloud, as the students enter the room. Your students will most likely become curious as to why you are counting so much and will begin to ask you questions. Listen to their questions but keep counting. You choose what number you stop at, but I suggest at least 200 so that the students get a real feeling of how long it takes to count that high. If students begin to count with you, smile with them.

If you need help organizing the lesson, feel free to use this ESL lesson plan template.

How Much Is a Million?

Write the following on the board, “I believe it would take __ days to count to a million.” Now ask the students to take out their notebooks and write their answer to that question.

When they finish write the calculation:

1,000,000 seconds = 16,666.6 minutes = 277.7 hours = 11.5 days

Say, “If I said one number every second for 11 and 1/2 days I would reach one million.”

This means that if you count one number every second it would take 1,000,000 seconds, or 11 and 1/2 days, to reach one million.

  • 1,000,000 seconds / 60 seconds in a minute = 16 666.6 minutes
  • 16 666.6667 minutes / 60 minutes in an hour = 277.7 hours
  • 277.777778 hours / 24 hours in a day = 11.5 days

If you have a prize, you should give it to the student who was closest to 11.5 days.

Singing by Tens

The major scale, better known through the notes DO RE ME FA SO LA TE DO, can be sung with the numbers 1 10 100 1,000 10,000 100,000 1,000,000 10,000,000. Write the aforementioned numbers on the board and begin by singing these alone and having the students simply listen. Then, have the students sing each note after you. Repeat this until you can move up and down the scale with relative ease. Have everyone sing along, whenever possible. If you are talented, you can clap a beat as well or play a musical instrument along with the song. My audio version is located here.

Writing by Tens to One Million

Have your students write by tens to one million in their notebook. Remember you already have 1 – 10,000,000 written on the board. When they finish, have a volunteer come to the front of the class with their notebook. Have that volunteer put their finger on a number they have written out of sight of the rest of the class. Tell the students they have to raise their hands and guess which number the volunteer is touching. The volunteer answers yes or no. When a student gets the answers right it is their turn to come to the front of the class and do the same.


At the end of the class have an oral and written assessment. First, have all the students number from 1 to 10 in their notebook. Say one of the numbers that you have covered in the lesson and have them write it down, make sure they know this is a quiz. When that assessment ends, have the students write out the numbers 1-10,000,000 e.g. one, ten, one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, one hundred thousand, one million, ten million in their notebooks as well. When they finish this assign them the following problems:

Ten + one hundred =

One hundred + one thousand =

One thousand + ten thousand =

Ten thousand + one million =

One million + one million =

Ten million + one =

One + ten + one hundred + one thousand + ten thousand + one hundred thousand + one million + ten million =

While they are working on those problems, call each student up to the front one by one and show them a number, written out numerically, and have them say it. Example, teacher shows the number “10,000,” the student says “ten thousand”.

When this is over and class has ended, thank your students and tell them that the following day you will be going over the problems that they were just working on.

This post is part of the series: ESL Lesson Plans

These articles are a great resource for any ESL teacher. They include fully thought out lesson plans with games, step by step instructions, and a lot a quality learning.

  1. ESL Lesson Plan: The Conditional Tense
  2. Easy ESL Math Lesson Plan: Counting to a Million
  3. Improving Listening Skills: English Verb Tenses For Your ESL Class
  4. Teaching Teenage ESL Students About Basic Nouns