Engagement,  Math

How to Teach Place Value in a Fun Way

How to Teach Place Value

Place value is one of my absolute favorite topics to teach in math. However, when I first started teaching, I had absolutely no clue how to teach place value. It seems easy enough, but it can certainly get pretty mundane and boring after awhile.

Over my years of teaching, I found some pretty creative ways to make teaching place value way more fun for our students. I’m sharing 5 place value activities with you today that can help add a little something extra into your instruction.

How to Teach Place Value

Activity 1: Place Value Ring Toss

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen me share about this game last month in my Math Monday series. Place value ring toss (or bean bag toss) is a fun place value activity to practice writing numbers in standard, word, expanded, or unit form.

To play, you need either a ring toss game with several rings, or some bins and something to toss. You can pretty much use anything to make this work.

  1. Label the pegs of your ring toss or the bins with each place value number – ones, tens, hundreds, etc.
  2. Students will then take turns tossing the rings/bean bags/other items and landing them in the different spots.
  3. As they throw, the rest of the class is keeping a tally of where they land on a place value chart.
  4. Once a student is done tossing, tell the class to write the number in a certain form. Students will use the tallies they kept to determine the number and write it in the correct form.
  5. Once students are ready, do a quick check of their boards before choosing another student to do the ring toss.
  6. Repeat until all students have had a turn.

I love this game, because not only is it fun, ALL students are kept busy! No one is standing around waiting for their turn. Everyone is participating the whole time and getting that place value practice in.

Activity #2: Human Number Line

how to teach place value - human number line

Another idea for how to teach to place value is to do a human number line. This place value activity is great for practicing ordering numbers, and you can even throw in some practice with writing numbers in different forms as well.

To play:

  1. Give each student a card with a number on it. This number can be written in any form (and they don’t all have to be written in the same form).
  2. Students wear or keep the card with them. On the teacher’s cue, students quietly get up, move to a designated area of the room, and line up in the correct order according to the number each student has. Teacher may indicate to order in least to greatest or greatest to least order.
  3. Teacher will do a quick check to make sure they are in the right order.
  4. Once teacher has verified accuracy, students should switch cards and sit back down. Repeat as many times throughout the day as desired.
  5. OPTIONAL: Time students each time and encourage them to beat their time.

This is a great way to get practice in with ordering numbers, and get your students up and moving throughout the day!

Activity #3: Last Number Standing

how to teach place value - last number standing

This place value activity is super easy and can be done with just a few minutes left in the day. All students need is a whiteboard or piece of paper.

  1. Students each write a number on their board or paper. You may want to give some guidelines, such as everyone should write a 3-digit number.
  2. All students stand up, showing their number.
  3. The teacher will give various place value criteria, such as “7 in the tens place” or “the value of the hundreds place is 300.” If a student’s number meets this criteria, they sit down.
  4. Continue until only one student is left standing.

This is a quick place value game that requires no preparation! Students must use critical thinking skills and place value knowledge to determine if their number is being described or not. Students love this game, too!

Activity #4: Who Am I?

place value activity - who am I?

Another quick place value activity that is easy to implement is to play a round or two of Who Am I?

  1. Write numbers on sticky notes and stick one on the back of each student.
  2. Students go around the room asking yes or no questions to determine what their number is. Questions might include things like: “Do I have more than 5 tens?” or “Is my number even?” They may wish to take notes as they are given clues to help them figure out their number.
  3. Once they have figured out their number, they should move it to the front of their shirt. They may continue helping other students until all students have figured out their number.
  4. If desired, you can give each student a new number and play again.

That’s it! This is a great way for students to practice using place value language to describe numbers.

Activity #5: Do a Room Transformation

place value activity - place value hospital

Room transformations are a great way to take an otherwise lackluster concept and add some sparkle! A room transformation is when you transform your classroom into something else and incorporate fun learning activities along the way.

One example for a place value room transformation would be to do a Place Value Hospital. Students pretend to be doctors as they perform number surgery, make diagnoses based on place value symptoms, match numbers to their correct x-ray, and fulfill prescriptions in the pharmacy by sorting numbers.

Room transformations can be easy to implement and don’t have to cost a lot of money! For example, for Place Value Hospital, you can simply wear a lab coat and put up a sign indicating your room is now a hospital. If you want, you may be able to get a local hospital to donate gloves, caps, or surgical attire for your students to wear, too!

Teaching Place Value Should Be Fun!

If you’re struggling with how to teach place value in a fun way, try out some of these activities and see if it makes a difference. Teaching place value shouldn’t be a struggle – it should be fun!

What is your favorite activity for teaching place value?


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