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Teaching place value: 5 activities you can do every day

Whether you’re starting the school year with a unit on place value or reviewing some place value concepts later on, these 5 activities are sure to engage your students in an essential math concept.

And no matter what grade level you teach, these activities can fit your students’ needs. Simply modify by changing the number of place values.

1. Number Name Tags

This is so simple but so useful for all kinds of different activities. Simply write a bunch of different numbers on name tags or index cards. Having them range from 3 digits up to 7 digits allows for differentiation based on students’ understanding.

Hand out one name tag to each student for each of the following activities. These are the perfect way to ease into a lesson on place value at the start of each lesson.

  • Read the number out loud
  • Line up from smallest to largest number
  • Find the value of the digit in your hundreds place
  • Identify where commas should go in your number
  • Numbers between 1 and 5,000 go to this side of the room; numbers between 5,000 and 50,000 go to this side of the room

2. Guess the Number

Write down a 6-digit number but keep it hidden from your students. Draw 6 lines on the board (one for each digit).

Have students ask yes or no questions to figure out each digit.

Sample questions:

  • Is the digit in the thousands place less than 5?
  • Are any of the digits the same?
  • Is the digit in the tens place less than the digit in the ones place?
  • Is the value of the number greater than 400,000?

3. Heads Up, 7 Up with Place Value

This is the most requested way to practice place value in my 4th grade classroom.

Here’s how you play:

The students at the front of the room have number cards and clue cards. Each clue says something about their number related to place value. For example, the digit in my ten thousands place is a 3.

The students place their clue card on a student’s desk when they put down their thumb and they hold up their number card in front of them when they return to the front. The students who were picked use the clues and their understanding of place value to narrow down who could have picked them.

You can make these clues and numbers yourself or save yourself some time and use mine!

4. Make the Biggest Number

Another simple but effective game; all you need for this game is a die to roll.

Each student draws 6 lines on their whiteboard or paper. Tell them you are going to roll the die 6 times and their goal is to make the biggest number possible. They have to place a digit each time you roll, but they can put it in whichever place value they want. Once they’ve placed a digit, they cannot move it.

At the end of all 6 rolls, see who in the class was able to make the largest number.

Alternatively try to have students make the smallest number.

5. Rearrange the Digits

This activity can be done with a small group demonstrating for the class or just in small groups.

Print large one-digit numbers, so that one number is on each piece of paper.

Give each group member a paper and then tell them they will rearrange themselves to form the number you say aloud. This is especially effective if you include numbers with a lot of zeroes, as students tend to have a harder time with these and benefit from more practice.

Another option is to give students clues as to which digit goes in each place value.

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