One of the most fundamental concepts taught in math are the numbers themselves, and that they always come in a specific and consistent order. Just as crucial to the development of number theory, however, is place value. Understanding the relationship between ones, tens, and hundreds (and later tenths and hundredths) is crucial to expressing different quantities themselves and articulating the relationships between them.
Many children find difficulty with this skill initially, however. Without knowledge of place value, students may see 13 and 31 as the same number–both containing the same two digits. Place value puts an emphasis on digit order, and gives reason for why 31 is larger than 13. An reference article found on education.com says, “Learners can correct [any] misunderstandings by solving real-world problems with hands-on materials and learning aids such as counters, base ten manipulatives, and place value charts.”
1) How to use base-ten blocks:
Particularly catering to the visual and kinesthetic learners, base ten blocks allow students to manually display and manipulate each place value of a number. Yet, because each unit is indented into each piece (10 units = 1 long, yet 10 units can still be seen and counted), they reaffirm each student’s work.
This blogger cut up pool noodles (and an accompanying book–yay interdisciplinary!) to use instead as base-ten blocks. The same idea, but the larger pieces may appeal to younger students and add a stronger kinesthetic element.
There are so many activities that teachers can do with these manipulatives (tackled later in this post), but the biggest goal is to have students practice modeling 1, 2, and 3 digit numbers with whatever tools you decide to use! Click here to find the worksheet below–a perfect way to guide students in their independent exploration:
2) How to use place-value charts:
While this tactic is much more visual, it can still be a helpful organization tool for students to see the relationship between the digits of a number, especially larger expressions. Here is an example below:
An activity like this contains a few different approaches. Students can practice reading numbers that are already on the chart (coming up with the expression “three thousand, six hundred, eighty four”), or they could write the numbers on the chart based on verbal dictation of a four, five, or six digit number. These charts put an emphasis on the labeling of place values, and not as much on the composition of numbers (like the base-ten blocks do).
3) Fun with Place Value!
While the manipulatives listed above are crucial learning tools, I say that there can always be fun found in math! The following are some very fun ideas that I’ve stumbled across. Click the link to see the original source and to learn more about the game or craft.
I hope these ideas spark some inspiration for place value emphasis in your classroom!