Learning the ASL Signs for Numbers 0 Through 100
The whole numbers-being-infinite thing can make learning to count in sign language seem a little overwhelming, but it’s actually not so hard. There’s quite a lot to remember, but if you take it step by step, there’s no reason you can’t master it.
Today, we’re going to be exploring numbers 1 through 100 in American Sign Language (ASL), which is a lot of information, I know, but don’t be intimidated. We’re going to break it up into bite-size stages that you can take at your own pace. Let’s get to it!
1 – 5
I’ve got some good news for you! You already know how to sign numbers 1 through 5, and as for 0, well…let’s just say it’s not exactly difficult to remember or perform.
To sign zero, all you have to do is make a circle shape with your hand. Curve your fingers round, touch your thumb to the tip of your middle finger, then hold the sign up, so the heel of your hand is facing outwards.
For 1 through 5, you can simply count them out on your fingers. To sign 1, hold up your index finger, to sign 2, throw up your middle finger as well, for 3, get the thumb involved, 4 invites the ring finger and the pinky to the party, and 5 is a full spread hand.
6 – 9
Now, you may be expecting numbers 6 to 9 to spread across both hands, but a big part of sign language is economy of movement, so all numbers are expressed on a single hand.
The main aspect of communication for this set of numbers is thumb-to-finger contact. For 6, hold your hand up, palm facing outwards as if you’re about to give a high five, then fold your pinky finger under your thumb. Your remaining three fingers should be spread out in the air.
To count up from 6, simply switch the finger that’s held under your thumb in sequence. For example, 7 is signed by holding your ring finger under your thumb. 8 is your middle finger, and 9 is your index finger.
10 is possibly the easiest number to sign of all. Have you ever given a thumbs up before? Excellent, then you already know how it’s done. The only difference between giving a thumbs up and signing the number 10 is that you wiggle your thumb from side to side.
11 – 15
Signing numbers 11 through 15 is similar to signing numbers 1 through 5, with a few slight variations.
- The first variation is that your palm should be facing you.
- The second variation is that you’ll be flicking the fingers you’re holding up. For example, if you were to sign 11, you’d take your index finger and put it up, down, up…in quick succession, almost as if you’re beckoning someone.
- The third and final variation is that for 13, 14, and 15 you should keep your fingers together rather than spaced apart.
16 – 19
Now that you already know how to sign numbers 6 through 9, signing 16 through 19 is a total breeze. They’re the same signs, but you twist them towards you twice. By twisting, I mean that you turn your wrist in a fast motion whilst doing the sign.
For example, if you were holding your pinky beneath your thumb to show 6, keeping the sign intact, roll your wrist counterclockwise for right hands, or clockwise for left hands, towards your body, then back again. Do that twice, and voilà; that’s this section of numbers mastered!
To sign 20, fold your pinky, ring, and middle finger flat against your palm, then pinch your index finger to the tip of your thumb.
Between 21 and 30, things get a little tricky as there isn’t a constant pattern, so we’ll be addressing a few numbers one by one.
To sign 21, make a gun shape with your hand by extending your index finger and thumb, hold your handgun in front of your chest, palm facing inward, James Bond style, then wiggle your thumb as if you’re cocking the trigger.
22 and All Other Double Numbers
For 22, get your bunny ears up to form the sign for 2, tilt your palm, so it’s nearly horizontal, then do a little bunny hop from your body out to the side. The same applies to all double numbers moving forward. Just sign the single digit number, tilt your palm down, then do a little bunny hop.
23 is just the sign for 3, but you give your middle finger a waggle.
24 is the 20 “gun” sign, followed by the 4 sign.
25 is simply the sign for 5 with a quick waggle of the middle finger, exactly like 23.
26 – 29
For these numbers, you’ll need to draw your handgun again, quickly followed by the sign for 6, 7, 8, or 9.
30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90
For any number divisible by ten, you need only sign the first number, then show a zero.
31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39
Besides 33 (see the rule on double numbers above), all the 30s can be signed by showing a three sign followed by a whatever number proceeds it.
41 – 99
Follow the same pattern as you did with the 30s all the way to 99.
And finally, to sign 100, hold up the sign for 1, then make a C shape with your hand (C stands for century).
How to Count in Sign Language — Summing Up
That wasn’t so bad after all, was it? Once you start to notice the patterns, all the pieces just slide effortlessly into place. To improve your counting skills, try timing yourself and see how quickly you can get to 100. Counting down from 100 is another fun challenge, but if you really want to push yourself, why not try to use your signs to answer some basic sums? You’ll be an expert in no time!