When you’re communicating with a deaf person, just as you would with a hearing person, you sign numbers for expressing everything from telephone numbers to addresses and amounts of money. In this guide, we’ll show you how to sign numbers from 1 to 25, as well as some others that are frequently used. You’ll also learn how to continue signing additional numbers on your own.
In sign, you should use numbers just as you would in regular conversation situations:
Signing the numbers isn’t hard to learn. In fact, you’ll see that many of the signs are sequential and use your fingers in a logical order.
When signing numbers, keep your hand steady.
When signing numbers, you may recognize some similarities with some of the fingerspelled alphabet letters. The sign for the number TWO is the same as the sign for the letter V, but with a different palm orientation (for the number TWO, the palm faces in toward you). When signing the number SIX, you may notice that it closely resembles the letter W. You may also see that the number 0 is close to the letter O. What’s the difference? When signing these numbers, you’ll keep your fingers stretched and extended outward, with the tips of your fingers touching. The letters W and O are signed with your fingers slightly bent inward and rounded. For W, your thumb slightly overlaps your pinky finger. For O, your thumb slightly overlaps your first two fingers (index and middle).
We’ve shown you the most common signs for counting, but, of course, the numbers are endless! You've learned how to sign 1 to 25 consecutively, but to sign higher numbers, here’s what to do:
Counting in the hundreds now! Numbers are borrowed from the Roman numerical system, using the C handshape to mean HUNDRED. For one hundred, we sign using the number ONE handshape with the palm facing outward instead of inward, as the next sign will follow with C. This pattern is the same for 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800, and 900; you first form the number and then follow with the C handshape.
To sign odd numbers in the hundreds, you sign the first number and then sign HUNDRED (again, that’s the handshape C), and end with the sign for the consecutive number(s). For example, for 307, you sign a total of three signs: THREE, HUNDRED, SEVEN. For 615, you sign: SIX, HUNDRED, FIFTEEN.
A thousand involves two hands. Rules change her about the use of primary numbers. To sign 1,000, the number “one” handshape faces inward and then becomes a bent-B handshape, which ends at the palm of the constant hand. You sign numbers in a similar pattern as when you sign in the hundreds. For example, for 1,314, you sign the following: ONE, THOUSAND, THREE, HUNDRED, FOURTEEN (a total of five signs).
When signing more than just one number (for example, the year 2004), you start your hand a little left in front of you and slide it toward the right with each consecutive number signed. Orientation for these four signed numbers is outward. You can liken this to “number columns,” as children learn when studying math—there is the ones column, the tens column, and the hundreds column. You create imaginary number columns in the signing space in front of you. Numbers, like letters, move from left to right if your right is your dominant hand and vice versa if you are left-handed.
From The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Conversational Sign Language Illustrated by Carole Lazorisak and Dawn Donohue