Place value is one of the most important math concepts we teach in elementary school. Place value is something students will use not only for the rest of their school years, but the rest of their lives! This can make teaching place value feel stressful but it doesn’t have to be! There are several things you can do to help teaching place value easy for you and fun for your students!
Place value is being able to look at a number and know what each number represents. For example in the number 3,578, we know the 3 is thousands, the 5 is hundreds, the 7 is tens, and the 8 is ones. Place value understanding also extends into the decimals. It is important for students to automatically know the place value for each number so that they can be successful in other math concepts. We use place value in everything we do including addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division!
How to Teach Place Value
The very first thing that can help with teaching place value is teaching the vocabulary. This step can be easy to skip, but it is so important. Our students cannot be successful unless they understand what we are talking about! You can either introduce the vocabulary at the beginning of the unit or you can explicitly teach it as you go. Teaching vocabulary doesn’t need to take long. Make sure that you continue to use vocabulary and remind students as you teach throughout the lesson/unit.
It can also be super helpful for students to have a vocabulary page to refer back to! Some of the vocabulary you will need to teach students with place value is the names of each place in whole numbers and decimals, standard form, word form, expanded form, exponent, power, and period.
You can also post vocabulary around the room to help students to remember.
Place Value with Whole Numbers
The very first place to start teaching place value is with whole numbers. Some students may be more or less familiar with the different place values. Start with a number in the hundred millions and ask students to identify the place values they can. It can be helpful to ask students to notice patterns such as how each third digit in a period has the name “hundred” with it. After you have reviewed and introduced all of the place values, have students practice by giving them a number verbally and having them write it down. You could also do this as a fun activity with partners.
After students are comfortable with the standard form of place value review/teach what expanded form and written form is. Expanded form is when you are adding or multiplying each value in its place. Written form is writing out a number with words. Once students know all of this, practice is the best way for students to become fluent. You can have students work in partners or small groups and there are lots of fun activities to change up how you have your students practice place value.
Powers of Ten and Exponents
Now that your students are familiar and comfortable with whole number place values, the next step is teaching powers of ten and exponents. In fifth grade is the first time that students are introduced to exponents and powers. Starting with exponents and powers of ten is the most logical place to start because students can easily find patterns. Start by showing several powers of 10 and their exponent equivalent such as 100 = 10^, 1,000 = 10^3, 10,000 = 10^4, etc. Have students see if they can identify patterns and determine what they think the little number means.
After students have had a chance to explore, teach students that exponents indicate the number of zeros behind a number and then teach them how to multiply with powers of ten. At this point, you can start to bring in decimals and teach students how to move the decimals over depending on the power of ten.
Teaching place value is an important part of multiplication strategies. Students should understand place value to interpret the meaning of their answers, determine if answers make sense based on the original problem, and to understand the standard multiplication algorithm. This is especially important as students begin multiplication with three and two values.
Before teaching the standard algorithm, students need to understand that when we multiply we are really multiplying each number by its true value. Using place value multiplication tables is extremely helpful to teach this concept. For example when you multiply 256 by 9 students need to understand that they are multiplying 9 by 6, 50, and 200 not just 6, 5, and 2. Helping students to understand this concept of place value is vital before teaching the standard algorithm. This will help to solidify the algorithm and make it more likely that students will remember.
Power of Place Value
I hope that you find these easy to implement strategies helpful in teaching place value! These tips and tricks are not an exhaustive list of ways to make your place value teaching stress free, but they are a good start! Place value is so important, so make sure you feel confident and good about your guided math place value lessons. You’ve got this!
Planning for Place Value
Do you need an easy set up unit for teaching place value? I’ve totally got you covered! This unit has everything you need including; anchor mats, vocabulary, lesson plans, practice pages, homework, and exit tickets! It covers everything in this post and more! Teaching place value doesn’t have to be stressful. This unit will make sure you are completely set up and your teaching will be stress free! Check Out the Place Value Unit *Guided Math* by A Teacher’s Wonderland