December 8, 2023

Understanding how to teach place value of numbers is an essential part of learning math operations. It’s how we compare numbers, align numbers vertically, make sense of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division—and is the basis for understanding borrowing or rearranging.

place worthy blog post
place worthy blog post

While this skill is critical because it is the foundation of our number system, it can be a difficult task for some children, especially our students with learning disabilities. These students need to move from counting by one, a skill they have been practicing for some time, to now understanding that “one” can represent “one ten,” “hundred,” “thousand,” etc.

So how do you work on intentional teaching strategies to help support your students as they learn about the value of place? Let’s look at some options.

4 Place valuable skills for teaching students

Picture of Hundreds Chart Puzzles
Hundreds Chart Puzzles are great for practicing place value skills in math centers, morning baths, or quick morning tasks. You can find them here.

Skip counting

To really be able to count and identify the base ten blocks, students need to be able to count by tens and ones as well as be able to switch between them. Before you start teaching your students place value, make sure you teach them to skip count by tens to at least 100. A good way to do this is to incorporate it into your morning routine or at the beginning of a whole group math lesson.

Check out this digital resource to practice counting skips with your students.

Stop and start counting

Once your students are pretty solid in their skipping skills, you can stop and start counting. This helps them practice flipping back and forth from counting by tens to counting by ones. Ask them to start counting in tens (10, 20, 30, 40…), then tell them to stop and start counting by 1 from that number and continue to 100.

Place value counters
Sometimes the best lessons don’t involve colored ink, lamination or velcro.

Slowly introduce place value blocks

In the beginning, limit the teaching to only tens and ones. This skill needs to be solidified before moving on to larger numbers to avoid confusing your students. You will want to teach your students about place value using the basic ten blocks. This helps these abstract numbers look and feel more concrete to your students. The basic ten blocks help them understand that ten objects can also be seen as one group of ten. Once your students understand this, you can have them practice using mixed groups of tens and ones to create and identify two-digit numbers. Once they seem to understand how to group ones into tens, you can move on to hundreds and so on.

Matching free AWB numbers in the resource library
This free worksheet with customized place value numbers can be found in the resource library here.

Teach about exchanges

This part of teaching place value is easy to overlook. Teaching exchanges later prepare students to regroup addition and subtraction. To teach substitution is to show the student that having 13 1’s is the same as having 1 10 and 3 1’s by having them trade 10 1’s for 1 10’s stick increasing through the two digit numbers as they go. Once you’ve mastered that, you can take that skill and transfer it to the ability to trade 10 dozen sticks for a 100 block. When you get to multi-digit addition and subtraction with reordering, you can go back to the skill or even pull out your tens to try it out and get visual support.

There are tons of games and resources you can use to reinforce your students’ knowledge of place value, but click here to get it free, release place value task box resource to help your students identify different numbers in different places.

Here are some other resources for place value:

What are some of your favorite games or activities that you play in the classroom to teach, practice, and reinforce your students’ knowledge of place value? We’d love to hear it in the comments below!

2023 March Math Calendar of Events
2023 March Math Calendar of Events

This blog post is part of the March Mathness series.

Please vote for the value of the team place here. And don’t forget to bring your own Place valuable attention here.


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