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Place Value Doesn’t Have to be Boring!

Teaching second grade has given me a much better understanding of how second graders are prepared for third grade.  If you examine the Common Core State Standards for Math, you will see that place value is NOT taught directly in third grade.  It is left up to first and second-grade teachers to make sure students learn place value by being able to read and write numbers up to 1,000.

understanding place value


But teaching and learning place value doesn’t have to be boring!  One thing I notice about second graders compared to third graders is that attention spans are even shorter.  Another thing is that you have to mix up your teaching game to keep them focused and processing the information.  They also love to play games!

understanding place value


So I made up this game to solidify the concept of ten 10s equaling one hundred.  First I spent about thirty minutes prepping the materials I would need.  Lots of place value rods and flats!  Luckily, out math program gives each teacher plenty of these to use.  They’re also made of foam which eliminates the sound of plastic banging on a desk. First, I put the 10 rods into bundles of ten and put them in snack size plastic bags.  Then, I put all the 100s flats into a basket so they could be handed out.  Finally, just needed one die and my pick sticks (just craft sticks with each students name on a stick).

using pick sticks and a die for a game


To play the game, I handed out to each student between 2 – 5 of the 100s flats.  Some students got 2 hundred flats, some 3 hundred flats, some 4 hundred flats and some got 5 hundred flats.  Then I explained to students that I would roll the die.  If I got a four, I want to trade with someone who has 4 hundred.

But to make it random, I would first pick a name from the pick sticks and ask that person, Do you have 40 tens? (that being the amount I wanted to trade with the student).  If the student said no, I would ask why not?  Then I would continue picking names until I found a student who could make the trade:  40 bundles tens for 4 hundred flats.

trading 10 10s for 100 activity to learn place value

But to make it more difficult, I said I needed to ask the student to answer a question before trading. Sneaky me, I also wanted to have the students practice counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s and 100s.  So I might ask the student:  count by 5s starting at 50.  If the student answered correctly, we made a fair trade, and the class received one point.

So it was teacher vs. class for points.  If a student answered incorrectly, the teacher got the point.  Of course, they won!  Adding the random factor (die and pick sticks) kept everyone in the game.  Asking the same type of question Do you have ___ tens? helped reinforce the concept of ten 10s equaling 100.


Now it was time to transition over to a model.  In my class, we use a composition book as a math journal. However, we call it our Siri Journal.  You know, just like Siri on an iPhone. When you have a math question, ask your Siri math journal!

using a math journal to record place value

In the journal, I had the students make a model for 230.  They drew 23 lines (each line representing 10). Then they grouped the 10s into 100s.  Then we wrote the number in different ways:  23 tens and 2 hundred and 3 tens.  We also did this with 370.

From there it was time for independent practice with the math book.  I’m not a huge fan of our math program, but I did like this particular set of math practice pages!

independent practice with place value


I’ve also been embedding some spiral review into our daily routine. We do about two Number Talks a week to learn strategies.  We also just practice counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, and hundreds starting from various numbers.  This ability to manipulate numbers in your head (mental math) is probably the most important skill you can teach a primary student.  One of my sons started school after Common Core began, while the other transitioned to the Common Core Standards.  I can see a big difference in how they each handle math.  The one that started with the Common Core uses many flexible strategies to manipulate numbers, while the other one is still relying just on memorization.

odd and even puzzles

I also plan spiral review through games and centers.  I have created an entire set of games and centers to use to reinforce the concept of odd and even.  How does odd and even relate to place value? Have students use a 100 chart to find odd and even numbers. What patterns do they notice? If you decompose a number such as 24 into 24 ones instead of 2 tens and 4 ones, is it still even?

Having taught third grade, it is critical they understand odd and even!  We use the concept of odd and even to find addition and multiplication patterns!

odd an even mat
odd and even tablets
odd and even game

You can find these centers and games in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  They are part of the Odd and Even Teaching and Learning Bundle.

Odd and Even Teaching and Learning Bundle

Understanding place value is key to adding multi-digit numbers.  How about using the Compensation Strategy? Read more about that in this blog post.

New Place Value Resources!

Place value is a critical component of number sense that students need to develop in grades K – 2. Check out these place value for grade 2 resources (can also be used in grades 3, 4, and 5 for review).

Need games for place value? Check these out HERE in my TpT Store.

Get these ready made center puzzles that can be used in a center or in small groups or even whole class!

Need More Ideas for Teaching Place Value?

Check out these posts.

Teaching Place Value? How NOT to do it the Wrong Way!

Ideas on How to Effectively Teach Place Value in a Virtual Setting

What strategies do you use to teach place value?  Please share below!

Don’t Go Yet!

Do you need a “toolkit” for teaching place value virtually? I’m offering a FREE Place Value Toolkit for your students to use if you’re teaching place value virtually (or not). You can check it out on this blog post (Ideas on How to Effectively Teach Place Value in a Virtual Setting) for more details on how to use it.

In the meantime, sign up for my newsletter and get the Place Value Toolkit now!

What are some of your ideas for teaching place value?

Share your ideas in the comments!

Place Value Doesn\'t Have to be Boring!
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