No matter what grade I was teaching we always started with place value in math. It’s the natural place to start and every year we moaned at how our kiddos just didn’t have a conceptual understanding of place value. #whining
We knew that it was vitally important that we help our students understand place value because it lays the groundwork for so many other math concepts, that they would be learning later in the school year.
One thing I have learned is that manipulatives are the best place to start almost any new math learning. Kids need to develop concrete understanding first. They need to put their hands-on objects that represent numbers in order to develop conceptual understanding and move to more abstract ways of representing these numbers. Plus, they really LOVE manipulatives! #engagement
1. PLACE VALUE BLOCKS/BASE TEN BLOCKS
Most students will have had instruction with place value (base ten) blocks by the time they reach third grade, but a little review is great place to start. Give them ones, ten strips, and hundred’s mats and let them build numbers. It’s a great review for them and a formative assessment for you!
2. PLACE VALUE CHARTS
Place value charts are a great visual for students to refer to during place value practice. For the most impact – make the chart WITH them. This cannot be overestimated – it means WAY more when they are involved in the process. I love this example:
Sarah – A really smart 2nd grade teacher modeled this game for me that was an AMAZING way for kids to practice place value. She called it The Bank. It can be played at any grade level – just use numbers that correspond with the standards.
Here’s how it’s played:
1. Place students in pairs and give each pair the exact same amount of base ten blocks.
2. Write a number on the board. If students need place value charts to help them build
3. Student pairs have to manipulate the place value blocks in order to have the exact
After you teach this game to students, it is easy to do a quick practice daily during your
4. ERROR ANALYSIS
As your students gain conceptual understanding and feel more confident in their ability to explain the value of digits in a number – they are ready to amp it up. Error analysis engages them in a rigorous practice that will help them master place value!
Once you teach your kiddos about error analysis – they will love it! Especially if you frame it as a challenge for them, i.e., “I bet you can’t find the errors!” I love to use this error analysis task in centers because it is so engaging and fun AND they definitely feel challenged!
It includes plenty of place value task cards and students are required to use math models and writing to explain their thinking. #bigtimerigor
After you teach place value, your students will be ready to tackle rounding (see my post about rounding here), addition/subtraction of multi-digit numbers, and multiplication!
For more place value resources: 4th Grade Place Value Error Analysis, Place Value Math Centers.
What great activities have you found that help your students with place value? Please share in the comments!