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4 Creative Activities for Reinforcing Place Value

Try supplementing and reinforcing the concept of place value with these creative activities.

Place value is a key mathematics concept for students to learn. The concept that numbers can be broken apart and put back together gives students a more solid understanding of how different operations work. Knowing when to exchange groups of units (ones) for tens, how to handle a zero in the hundreds place when subtracting, or correctly recording numerals in a quotient, for example, can be confusing for many students. The Math-U-See presentation of place value using Decimal Street and our color-coded pieces for units, tens, and hundreds helps students develop an authentic understanding of place value by helping them construct meaning through visual representations and hands-on practice.

Try supplementing and reinforcing the concept of place value with your Math-U-See curriculum with the following activities:

Place Value Activities

Build a Number

Integer Blocks
• Decimal Street™ poster
• Paper and pencil

Set up:
Your student needs to have access to 9 unit blocks, 9 ten-blocks, and 9 hundred-blocks.

Note: Depending on your student’s understanding of place value you may choose to have your student work on single, double, or three-digit numbers at separate times or review them all in one activity session.

• Ask your student to place a mystery amount of unit blocks (0-9), ten-blocks (0-9), and hundred-blocks (0-9) on the Decimal Street™ poster.
• Once the number is built, have your student write the number on the paper and then say it.
• Verify the answer is correct and record the number on a sheet of paper.
• After five numbers have been built, review the record of the numbers that were built and discuss the following:

• Did your student create more single-, double-, or triple-digit numbers?
• Which number is the greatest number or the least number?
• Underline a digit in one of the numbers and then ask your student to tell you the value it represents. (ex., in the number 65 the six represents 60 or six tens.)

Digit Swap

Integer Blocks
• 0-9 cards (green, blue, and red)

Set up:
Shuffle each set of cards and place them in three separate stacks facing down.

• Have your student select one card from the blue stack and the green stack to create a number. For example, he may draw a green 4 and a blue 5 to create the number 54.
• Have your student build the number with the Integer Blocks and say the number.
• Next, you select a card from any of the three stacks.
• If you select a blue or green card, replace the current digit of the same place value with the new card.
• If you choose a card from the red stack (for example, 7), place that card to the left of the 5 to create the number 754.
• Have your student build the new number with the Integer Blocks and say the number.
• Play continues with you and your student exchanging digits to create new numbers to build and say.

Listen for the Number

Integer Blocks
• Decimal Street™ poster
• Dry erase board, marker, and eraser

Set up:
Sit with your student back-to back, so that you can see the dry erase board and your student cannot. Your student needs to have access to the Integer Blocks and the Decimal Street™ poster.

• Write a number on the dry erase board that contains up to 3 digits.
• Read the number aloud to your student.
• Your student builds the number that he has heard with the Integer Blocks.
• Next, compare his model with the number on the board and verify it is correct.
• Switch roles periodically so that your student has the opportunity to be the reader and builder.

Remodel the Number

Integer blocks
• Decimal Street™ poster
• Dry erase board, marker, and eraser
• Paper and pencil

Note: This activity reinforces the concept of zero place holders.

• Write a two-digit number on the dry erase board (for example, 63). Ask your student to build, write, and say the number on the Decimal Street™ poster.
• Next, tell your student she is going to remodel the number. The new number will always have a zero in it. For example, you might ask her to remodel the number to become 603.
• Have your student build, write, and say the new number (603).
• Discuss how the number changed and how it remained the same. For the given example, the digit 6 moved to the hundreds place, and the 3 remained in the units place and the zero shows that there are no tens. The number still contains the numerals 6 and 3.
• This activity can be adapted to begin with a 3-digit number. For example, begin with 287 and ask your student to remodel it so it is 280.

Free Addition Facts Music & Activities

Songs, music, and rhyme are all helpful tools to aid students with math facts. Download some math songs to sing while you’re outside! There are also activities for when the weather doesn’t lend itself to outside math.

Download free addition facts songs, coloring pages, and activities.

Mastering addition facts is a critical part of becoming a confident math student.

About Scottie Altland

Scottie Altland is a certified elementary educator with specialties in math and curriculum development. Previously, Scottie taught grades 5-8 in public schools and worked for a local non-profit organization, offering families and students a broad range of family life education programs. As a mother of two, she enjoys spending time with her family, is an outdoor enthusiast, and continues to love teaching and learning. For the past year, Scottie has served as the Elementary Math Editor for Demme Learning.