Activities That Make Teaching
Place Value, Fun and Creative!!

Teaching place value is part of the Number Sense and Numeration strand and I never taught it at the beginning of the year.

I don't know about you, but I would delay writing place value lesson plans. I think place value and fractions are the two topics that students dislike the most. However with some creativity and a positive outlook, writing place value lessons may not be too much of a nightmare.

Place value is a topic that is taught each year and becomes increasingly more difficult as the students get to the next grade. Teaching place value should begin with a review of what they learned and supposedly remembered from the previous year.

What's really essential is for each student to complete a place value chart and staple it into their math notebook. This way it's readily available for them to refer to.

The place value chart is usually my first or second lesson when I teach place value. Base how high a column you teach on the grade you teach. For example, in Grade 5, you may teach up to the hundred thousands or millions column.

When teaching place value, have your students fill out the place value chart as a class. I have a large version of the chart on the board. Starting from the right column I print the name of each column vertically (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.) I also number each column (1, 2, 3, etc.) up to the place value column I'm teaching.

Teaching your students the standard, expanded and written form of the numbers should also be included in your place value lesson plans. That area is quite extensive and takes many, many lessons to teach and perhaps re-teach.

One of the place value activities that I did after teaching the standard, expanded and written form of numbers was a good review;

1. Each student had a large piece of newsprint which they folded into 4 equal sections.

2. They chose 4 numbers and wrote each one (in large print)at the top of each of the 4 sections. Only one of the numbers could have a zero in one of the places; take 378,596 (standard form) as an example.

3. They then had to write each number in expanded form, i.e. 300,000 + 70,000 + 8000 + 500 + 90 + 6 under the standard form.

4. Then they wrote the number in words, i.e. three hundred and seventy-eight thousand, five hundred and ninety-six under the expanded form.

5. Lastly, each student was given a sheet with the ten based blocks. They had to cut out the appropriate blocks and then glue them in order under the written form. Before they glued, I had them ask me if they were right with the ten based blocks.

As you can imagine, this activity took a while and was a good review. We put the sheets up on our bulletin board, around the room, and outside in the hall with a fun caption.

Another one of my place value games involved the abacus. Usually the primary classes had some which I borrowed and the kindergarten teacher had a big floor standing abacus. You can do these place value activities in partners or groups or as a whole class.

If there were none in the school, you could create your own using string, bamboo or popsicle sticks (for the sides to tie the string on), tube pasta shells (uncooked of course) and food colouring. Each row has 10 shells and are of different colours; eg. ones are red, tens are blue, hundreds are green, thousands are plain (no colour), etc. Incorporate math with an art lesson - your kids will love it!

Anyway, suggestions with the abacus:

* Call out a number, e.g. 87,014 and have your students create it on the abacus. Using your abacus (giving them a minute to figure it out), show them the answer. I also wrote the number on the board for the visual learners.

* Have one of the students say a number, write it on the board and have everyone create the number on their abacus.

* On your large abacus, demonstrate a number and have students volunteer to say the number. My students loved using the large abacus.

Of course, teaching place value involved having several quizzes and a major test at the end of the unit. I never just give one test. Some kids freeze up on a test and it's great to get a number of marks for the report card grade.

I hope my ideas on teaching place value will help ease the stress of teaching this unit. Good luck.

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