Learning Numeric Keypad Layout: Activities

What do calculators, extended keyboards, bank machines, adding machines, checkout at registers, door locks, and phone have in common? Numpads! (Also known as numeric keypads, number keys and ten-key.) Numpads are palm-sized keyboards that contain the numbers 0 through 9. A numpad is 4 rows by 3 columns. The top row has numbers 1, 2 and 3, second row has 4, 5, and 6, and third row has 7, 8, and 9. The fourth row varies depending on what it is used for, but the 0 is usually in the middle. The number 5 (in the middle of the numpad) has a tactile dot. 

Note some numeric keypads - including calculators and many extended QWERTY keyboards - have the number 1 in the third row, first column instead of the top left corner; the 0 may be below the 1.

Numeric keypads are designed to provide calculator-style efficiency for entering numbers. Numpads make it easier to enter large amounts of numeric data. Numpads on a keyboard are typically located to the right side of the QWERTY keyboard and can also serve as cursor control keys. Efficient JAWS and NVDA users often prefer using numpad keyboard commands over QWERTY keyboard commands.

Note: Freedom Scientific has a great article, JAWS and MAGic Reading Commands about the benefits of using numpads commands and activities to teach these commands. 

Numeric Keypad Layout Activity


  • Sticky notes
  • clipboard
  • Slate and Stylus (can use sticky-backed braille numbers)
  • Sensational Blackboard or similar tool


Ask the student to braille one number (0) on each sticky note or place each sticky-backed braille number on each sticky note. Using the Sensational Blackboard or other railed line tool, create the "#" (number sign) and "*" (asterisk). Additional symbols may be needed, depending on what the numpad is used for. 

Discuss the specific numpad that your student will be using, such as to enter numbers to unlock his/her smart phone or to manually type in a phone number. Ask the student to arrange the sticky notes to mirror the standard numbpad layout, with 1 in the top left corner. 

For younger students, transfer this 4x3 "numpad" layout to the I Hear Ewe app, which also has a 4x3 grid of animals or objects. Compatible with VoiceOver, the I Hear Ewe app has farm animals on the first page, more exotic animals on the second page and transportation objects on the third page. Call out a number and ask the student to find that number's position on the I Hear Ewe app by dragging his/her finger to the desired position. Example: The number 9 position is the goat.

Screenshot of I Hear Ewe app with 4x3 grid of animals/insects.

Here is a fun O&M and/or coding twist! Give the student two numbers and ask the student to determine a route from first number to the second number. Example: Number 1 and number 9. The student can determine the route, down two over two. Next ask the student to find an alternative route. Over two, down two. Are there additional routes? Over one, down two, over one, etc.

I Hear Ewe app in the App Store

Ask the student to find and explore additional numkeys at home and if possible, in the community. Is number 1 in the top left corner? 

As an O&M (pre-COVID), I have taken students to their local grocery store and asked to let the student explore the numpad at a closed check out line. We also explored and practiced how to insert, slide and tap a credit or debit card. Be sure and discuss Apple Pay or Google Pay and the advantages/disadvantages for using digital payments instead of cash. This is a great time to explore the entire checkout lane including the conveyer belt and bagging area. If possible, explore the checkers side as well! Find and explore other places in the community with numpads such as a bank machine. What other kind of numpads can you find?

Dr. Yue-Ting Siu shared the original numpad activity and gave Paths to Technology permission to write and publish this post. She came up with the sticky note and I Hear Ewe activity while working with a student who did not know how to unlock his iOS device using the numpad.