Updated: Apr 26
It doesn’t matter which grade level I am teaching, the first learning concept I always begin with in Maths is teaching students the importance of place value in whole numbers. I would probably be a billionaire, along with all the other teachers in the world if I got a dollar every time I reminded students how each number has a value and that the value of a number can change depending on its position aka ‘place’.
I thought I’d share with you my 3 go-to activities for teaching place value of a whole number, as well as some no fail games I always use that allow my students the opportunity to consolidate their knowledge:
To help students to learn what our base 10 number system looks like, it is essential to provide them with visual materials. In the early years using pop sticks or multilink cubes to make ones and tens is a good starting off point. I often use MABs (multi base arithmetic blocks) when teaching number sense. I like to start with a simple activity using dice to create 2-digit or 3-digit numbers. Students then create the number using MABs. As a whole class activity, I will ask questions such as I have 6 tens, 5 ones and 3 hundreds. What does my number look like? How do I say it? How do I write it? (This is a perfect time for students to use their mini-whiteboards. Read here why mini-whiteboards are the bomb! )
Additionally, I like to extend my students by providing them with these open-ended ‘Make a Number’ cards. They could even go on to create some of their own and have their peers answer them.
10 more / 10 less
To teach this activity I like to use a hundred chart or 120 number chart alongside MAB manipulatives. Additionally, if practising this skill with 3-digit or 4-digit numbers I will have a place value chart nearby, so students can identify the number in the place of the tens more easily. Get students to practise adding 10 to a number using small strips of paper. When they get to the bottom they turn the piece of paper over and start subtracting 10 from the number they finished on. You can do the same activity adding and subtracting 100.
Trading grades are a superb way for students to repeatedly practice how 10 ones equal 1 ten, 10 tens make 1 hundred and so on. What you’ll need is multi-link cubes and a class full of eager little minds. I’ve played these trading games with Year 2, Year 3 and Year 4, however, you can introduce them in Year 1. Read our blog post on How to Introduce Trading Games with your Class if you haven’t played them before with your students.
Resources we recommend for teaching place value:
Dice (6-sided and 10 sided)
Place Value dice (optional)
Place Value Mats (find a copy of our free mats here)
Place Value Display that students can refer to during lessons
So, there you have it! Three easy to implement activities for teaching place value in the classroom. We are always on the lookout for other great ideas, so leave a comment below with your favourite activity for consolidating students understanding of place value.
We have plenty more place value focussed ideas in our Hands-on Number Packs. Tasks included have been carefully created to meet the Common Core standards and Australian curriculum outcomes for each grade level and will build proficiency, fluency, and confidence in allowing students to practice and develop their number skills. This, in turn, will have a positive effect on their success in other mathematical strands and overall enjoyment of mathematics.
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