Ways to Teach Place Value in Math to Kids

Written by tess reynolds
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Ways to Teach Place Value in Math to Kids
Using counting techniques will teach students about place value. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Children begin learning mathematical concepts by counting. They learn how to add and subtract single-digit numbers in first grade and, in second grade, begin using two and three-digit numbers. Place value can be a difficult concept for children to learn. Use simple games and techniques to teach children about place value in math so that they will understand quickly and complete problems efficiently.

Counting Technique

Divide the class into groups of five students and cover tables with butcher paper. Place a handful or two of small items, such as dry beans, in front of each group. The students must count the beans. It will be difficult for the children to keep track of such a high number. Ask the students to count the items into groups of ten instead of individually, separating piles of ten on the desk and drawing a circle around each group. The students will find this much easier. Show them how to count the groups; leftover beans not in a group will go in the "ones" column and the groups of ten will go in the "tens" column. Ask each student to write the number.

Colour Values

Give each child several items in three different colours such as small candies or poker chips. Inform them that each colour represents a place value. White chips are ones, blue chips are tens and red chips are hundreds. Tell the students that ten white chips equals one blue, ten blue chips or 100 white chips equals one red. Write a three-digit number on the chalkboard and ask the students to gather chips to equal that number. For example, the number 263 would begin with two red chips, then six blue chips and three white chips. Practice with different numbers and check students' work to make sure they understand the concept. Try adding and subtracting with the chips when the students are comfortable.

Addition Catch

For this game, students will stand in a circle with a soft rubber ball. Tell the students that they will be adding by fives. The first player will think of a number between one and ten and say it aloud, then pass the ball to the next player. The next player will add five to that number and say it aloud, but will use place values instead of real numbers. For instance, if the original number was seven, the second player will say "one ten and two ones" to equal 12. The next player would say "one ten and seven ones" to equal 17. After several players have had a turn, change the number you're adding. Try adding by twos, tens or any other number you wish.

Place Value War

Seat four students around a table. Remove the jokers, kings, queens, jacks, aces and tens from a set of playing cards and deal the remainder of the cards to the students. The object of the game is to create the highest three-digit number. Game play moves in a clockwise fashion; each player takes a turn flipping his top card over and chooses to place the card in the ones, tens or hundreds column. The player who creates the highest number must say the numbers aloud. For instance, if the winning number is 832 and the losing numbers are 186, 245 and 756, the winner would say, "Eight hundred and thirty-two is higher than one hundred and eighty-six, two hundred and forty-five and seven hundred and fifty-six." If the winner makes a mistake reciting the numbers, the second highest number wins and must recite the numbers. The winner takes the cards, places them on the bottom of his deck, and play resumes until one player holds all the cards.

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