Teacher Mama: Place Value Primer

Place Value Primer

Boy Mama Teacher Mama  Place Value Primer


I am embarrassed to say that I did not understand Place Value until I had to teach it. I could go through all the steps and answer all the questions, but the meaning behind it? I had no idea. I think that is part of the problem with the way math “used to be” taught and thankfully, for kids today,  that has changed. Now that I understand place value, it is one of my favorite concepts to teach.

For those of you who are not sure (as I was) or who would like a refresher, here it goes.

What is place value? In our decimal number system, the value of each digit depends on its place or position in the number. Each place has a value of 10 times the place to its right.

What the heck does that mean?  Basically it means that each digit in a number has a value based on its position in a number.

So let’s take the number 8,426,431

  • the 1 is in the 0nes place and has a value of 1
  • the 3 is in the tens place and has a value of 30
  • the 4 is in the hundreds place and has a value of 400
  • the 6 is in the thousands place and has a value of 3,000
  • the 2 is in the ten thousands place and has a value of 20,000
  • the 4 is in the hundred thousands place and has a value of 400,000
  • the 8 is in the millions place and has a value of 8,000,000

Got that?  Great!

There are many different ways to teach place value to children. The first and best way is to teach them using “base ten blocks” which you will see in almost every classroom.  The blocks come in ones, tens, hundreds and thousands (sorry no image for thousands).

Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer

Student learn how to “make numbers” using these blocks. When making these numbers they are learning about the value of each digit in each number as well as the value of the whole number.

Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer   Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer

Understanding this concepts helps prepare students for adding and subtracting numbers especially numbers with more than one digit. Take this math problem for example.  The number 124 is created on top (from left to right). The number 242 is just below. The answer 366 is below the line. This is how students first learn to add multi-digit numbers.  And it goes on from here.  Students learn that when there are 10 or more ones in the ones column they have to trade ten of those ones for a ten and the same goes for  10 or more 10s or hundreds. While doing this they are learning how to “carry”(old term) or “trade” (new term).  This works the opposite way for subtraction.

 124+242 =366

Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer

Place Value Blocks

Where can I get Base Ten Blocks? There are many sources that sell Base Ten Blocks, but they tend to come in large quantities for the classroom and can be costly.  But don’t fret! Here are some ways you can MAKE your own.
  • Sugar Cube Base Ten Blocks: Use sugar cubes and glue to create the blocks.
  • Play Blocks Base Ten Blocks: If you have a big set of wooden blocks, you can use them to create your own Base Ten set.
  • Straws Bundles: The sets don’t have to be made from square cubes- although I highly recommend them for the younger children. Cut a straw into smaller pieces for the ones, bundle ten straws with a rubberband for tens and bundle ten bundles of tens for hundreds.  You can use toothpicks, Q-tips or any other item you can bundle as well.
  • Paper “Blocks”: Use the templates below. Print them on heavy paper for easier manipulation and durability.
Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer        Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer
Okay, now you know about Place Value and you have some sort of blocks. Here are a few simple games you can play with your child.  Use a PLACE VALUE MAT, NUMBER CARDS (see below) AND BASE TEN BLOCKS (see above) for these games.

Place Value Games

Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer    Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer
Blocks to Number:  Using the blocks place “some” (your choice, but less than 10) blocks in each column.  Use the number cards to create the number with numerals and then read the number. For example, below we place 6 ones in the ones column, 4 tens in the tens and 1 hundred in the hundreds.  Then using the number cards, we put the numeral six below the 6 ones, the numeral 4 below the tens and the numeral 1 below the hundreds.  We then are able to “see” and read the number 146.
Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer      Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer
Numeral to Blocks:  Provide a number and then make it using the blocks. Use the same process as above.
Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer      Boy Mama Teacher Mama | Place Value Primer
Number to Blocks and Blocks to Numbers with Dice:  Play both the games above the same way only this time, roll a die to see what number of blocks to put in each column. For example, roll #1 is 4– put 4 ones in the ones column; roll #2 is 5 put 5 tens in the tens column and roll #3 is 2 put 2 hundreds in the hundreds column. The number created? 254
So this is the very basics of Place Value and the use of Base Ten Blocks. In upcoming posts, I will show you a few other activities you can do to practice this concepts as well. Stay tuned!

Some Place Value Websites to Explore:

Other Place Value Ideas from BMTM:

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10 thoughts on “Teacher Mama: Place Value Primer

  1. Pingback: Teacher Mama: 11 Great Ideas for Teaching Place Value ({After School Linky) | Boy Mama Teacher Mama

  2. Pingback: Teacher Mama: Magnetic Place Value "Blocks" | Boy Mama Teacher Mama

  3. I just taught borrowing for subtraction and had about 6 that were having trouble. I got out the base 10 blocks, we created the top number and borrowed a “physical” 10 and they got it!

  4. Pingback: Teacher Mama: A Place Value Game for the Classroom - Boy Mama Teacher Mama

  5. Pingback: Teacher Mama: Another Use for a Pringles Can…Place Value! | Boy Mama Teacher Mama

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