Deciphering Roman Numerals

My son was reading one of his novels recently which had Roman Numerals as the chapter titles. He’d learned about Roman numerals in kindergarten but had forgotten what L meant. Here’s how he figured it out again.

I must be 1 because it was the first chapter.

I forgot what L meant and when I looked at the last chapter, which was LII, I thought L was 100. Then I looked at the page number, which was 504, and decided that was impossible because that would mean each chapter would be only five pages long which made no sense. So I decided L must mean fifty.

Knowing a little bit about Roman numerals was probably helpful here, but so was knowing something about how books work and what kind of answer would be realistic. When children don’t know what kind of answer is reasonable, it makes doing the mathematics harder.

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