Child Writing Backwards? Letter & Number Reversals


Is it normal for a 7 year old to still be turning the numbers around? When she points to or writes a number, for example “27”,  she writes “72”. It is most of the numbers 12-98.


I know this can feel upsetting to us moms, to see our children reverse their letters and numbers. We wonder if they can see correctly, or if their brain is wired backwards!

In my experience, both boys and girls can be perfectly normal and reverse their numbers and letters even at age 7. My “lefties” even wrote in perfect mirror writing, with all letters and numbers exactly and perfectly formed backwards and reversed! I read a health article that said a certain percentage of left handed people actually have their internal organs reversed (such as heart pointing towards the right rather than the left, etc.) which is usually discovered in surgery. I said, “Amen! That is why my lefty writes backwards!” and felt a lot more satisfied that not every person sees the world from the same angle!

But even right handers reverse their letters and numbers. For one thing, so many of them look very much alike: p, d, b, q. . . .argh! For a little person who is accustomed to a 3 D world, a “p” is just a flipped over “q” or an upside down “b”. To make those wiggly letters behave on paper is quite a challenge! But, of course, in order to communicate, even understood reversals have to be corrected to a right hand, left to right reading, type of world. And that is your task as a homeschool mom.

Ammon's journal

Ammon’s journal

Here is what I’ve done in my homeschool: I’ve taught my 7 children to write and I do believe every single one of them reversed certain letters and numbers. I begin early (about 4 years) with very simple journal writing, in which I have my child dictate one sentence to me, and then I write that sentence clearly in manuscript letters in yellow marker. My student then goes back and traces every letter with a chubby pencil to complete his sentence. This practice gives a child the correct letter formation over and over again, in a tracing format. That early practice is about the best thing I can think of for preventing reversals. There is no need for translation (eyes to brain to fingers) which encourages reversals. Tracing is direct. (The program I am describing is found in my K-5 Journal and Language Arts Program.) As my child progresses in daily journal writing, I begin to leave blank spaces in this tracing sentences exercise; some easy words, so that my student can use his own brain to create those words. Introducing: reversals!

Here is how I handle the first reversals: I point to the letter or number on his written page and I write the letter or number largely on a separate paper. Then I have my child study my letter that I have written and trace it a few times. Now we go back to the letter on his paper. “Can you tell any difference?” (Make it a fun “I caught you!” type game). When it dawns in his brain, he will self-correct. If it doesn’t dawn, then it is time to repeat the tracing exercises. As your student progresses in writing, he will continue to make some reversals of challenging letters. Simple, “what’s wrong here?” type questions are enough to create a self-correction, generally, especially if you write the correct letter big and clear for him to compare to. Don’t overwhelm him! Correcting one or two letters per writing is enough. Keep the journal entries short and sweet until reversals are not a major problem, or use several tracing sentences at the beginning of each journal entry, for more practice. It gets too discouraging to correct lots and lots of mistakes!

In my experience, reversals are usually a thing of the past by about age 8, although you’ll still be working on handwriting. Teaching a reversing child cursive early is a great practice, because it is more difficult to reverse most cursive letters, connecting into them from the previous letter.

Best success at a job that requires the patience of Job! Your future adult child will thank you for the time you take now!


Help from our Readers:

“Whenever I notice one of my children reversing a letter or number I casually say, “Go back and look at your B”. I let them find the mistake and they correct it. I think it’s important for mom to not act perplexed or anxious about it. They’ve got an entire lifetime to get it right and each child has different strengths and weaknesses.”

                             —Erica, Homeschool Mom

I have also had the same problem with my children. (9,8,5) I was worried enough to take them to the eye doctor to have their eyes checked. It was a good thing because my five year old needed glasses badly. I asked about the others reversing letters and numbers and he said that it was normal for children to do that and could do so until ten years or so. My sister showed me a trick that she uses on her kids. If you have them hold both hands with the thumbs up gesture so that they make the letters b and d they can see as they go which letter it is by themselves. I hope this helps.

                              —Christie, Homeschool Mom



May I recommend:

Is it a “b” or a “d”?

Remembering Phonics

Letters & Numbers for Me

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