Easy Ways to Remember Roman Numerals

While Roman numerals are very easy to grasp once you learn the basics, remembering the symbols and their values might take time. As they are not used for counting or calculation in our everyday life, we might find it difficult to refresh our memories to figure out the value of a given number in Roman numerals. So what are the easy ways to remember Roman numerals? Are there any mnemonics for Roman numerals? Or how do you teach Roman numerals to kids?

First Thing to Remember

The Romans used only seven symbols in their numbering system. Every other number in the Roman system is formed with these seven symbols. This actually makes it easy to remember because one needs to memorize only seven letters. These seven Roman numerals and their values are as follows:

I = 1

V = 5

X = 10

L = 50

C = 100

D = 500

M = 1000

Learn the Hand Signals Theory

The hand signals theory is an easy way to never forget the Roman numerals for from 1 (I) to 10 (X). This theory attempts to explain why the Romans historically used these seven specific symbols for counting. Suggesting that the Roman numerals represent the hand signals for counting, this theory makes it very easy to remember all the numbers from 1 to 10.

According to the hand signals theory, Roman counted by hands and fingers. What follows is that the numbers 1 (I), 2 (II) and 3 (III) are equal to the fingers used when counting. V (5) is the signal you would see in between the thumb and fingers - when you show all five fingers by opening one hand. Accordingly, the numbers 6 (VI), 7 (VII) and 8 (VIII) represent one hand showing 5 (V) and the other hand showing the equivalent numbers to be added to five. Lastly, X (10) is two hands showing two fives (V’s) with thumbs crossed, hence the shape ‘X’. This hand-counting theory makes it easy for especially children to grasp the basics of Roman numerals.

Use Mnemonics 

A common way to memorize and remember Roman numbers is using mnemonics - sentences in which the first letters of the words would assist you remember.

Two well-known mnemonics in descending order from 1000 (M) to 1 (I) are as follows:

"MeDiCaL XaVIer".

My Dear Cat Loves Xtra Vitamins Intensely”.

Both these mnemonics give you M, D, C, L, X, V, I (1000, 500, 100, 50, 10, 5, 1) in descending order.

A common mnemonic in ascending order from 1 (I) to 1000 (M) is as follows:

I Value Xylophones Like Cows Do Milk.”

Note how this mnemonic spell out I, V, X, L, C, D, M (1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, 1000) in ascending order.

Another mnemonic in ascending order, this time from 50 (L) to 1000 (M) is as follows:

Lucy Can't Drink Milk.” 

For remembering I, V, X (1, 5, 10) in order, you can use this mnemonic: I Vant XRays.

You might also find this poem useful to remember the ‘halves’, meaning 5, 50 and 500.

M's "mille" (or 1000 said)

D's half (500 - quickly read!)

C's just a 100 (century!)

and L is half again - 50!

So all that's left is X and V

(or 10 and 5) - and I - easy!

LCD, Century and Millenium

You can always remember L (50), C (100) and D (500) thinking of an LCD television.

Meanwhile, a trick to recall the values of C and M is to think of them as century and millennium. C stands for century and M for millennium.

Learn the Digits and Common Combinations

Getting familiar with the Roman numerals in terms of the tens and the hundreds will help you read numbers faster and easier. If you already recognize these common combinations of Roman numerals, it will be easier to read large numbers such as dates.

The Roman numerals for the tens’ place is as follows:

X = 10

XX = 20

XXX = 30

XL = 40

L = 50

LX = 60

LXX = 70

LXXX = 80

XC = 90

The Roman numerals for the hundreds’ place is as follows:

C = 100

CC = 200

CCC = 300

CD = 400

D = 500

DC = 600

DCC = 700

DCCC = 800

CM = 900

In addition to all these, you can easily convert from our online tool.


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