How to Teach Place Value

how to teach place valueGrades as low as first and as high as fifth learn their place values beginning with ones and tens before moving on to higher numbers. Place values are taught to prepare students for more complex math functions that they will face in the future. If you’re worried about teaching skills you’ve used for quite some time, glance over this quick summary on how to teach place value to your students. Brush up on math fundamentals with an online course at

Group Counting

If you’re teaching first graders, it’s likely that they don’t know how to skip-count. Before you teach them place values, you’re going to want to teach them how to count by their twos, their fives, and their tens. One of the best ways to teach them how to count by their tens is to use items and group them into tens.

Another great way to show students how to count by tens is by creating a charts that details the ones and tens place. An example chart has been created below. Learn Singapore Math with an online class.


You can also change the chart to include different place values depending on the values you’re teaching. Just add more columns for more place values.

Using Different Visual Aids

Go beyond grouping items and creating single-colored tables by using different techniques. A great idea for creating the table above on the chalkboard or white board is to use different colors for the ones and tens places. Consider drawing images grouped together to show place values. Brush up on some advanced math skills with an online course.

A great lesson idea from Teaching Ideas involves using a teddy bear holding a little cocktail umbrella. You then teach your students the mnemonic “hold teddy’s umbrella” to give them a better idea of the hundreds, tens, and units (or ones) as well as the order that they come in.

Use Games

A great way to reach more students is by using learning games. Teaching Ideas has a long list of games available for teaching place value. Create a math quiz iOS game with an online class. Here’s a couple of great ones from the website:

  • Tens and Units Color: Available as a Word document, this particular game is also a worksheet. Teaching Ideas suggests just having the students color in the matching place values and their digits, but you can also have the students cut out the boxes each place values and digits comes in. Have them use them as a mini matching game with classmates. Add to Teaching Ideas’s document by creating your own matches.
  • Place Value Clap: This particular game can be modified depending on what place values you’re teaching. The lesson as it is written goes up to thousands place, but you can modify it by adding or removing the number of students chosen to clap out the number written on the board. This is a great game to start a math lesson that’s going to take place right after recess to allow your students a little extra time to get their energy out.
  • Millionaire Place Value Game: This particular game is a little bit more complicated, but it’s great fun for all students learning place values. This game can be adapted for higher or lower numbers by adding or removing the number of boxes that need to be filled. The entire class can be involved in playing this game, or you can separate students into groups with each student taking a chance to be the one controlling the playing cards.

Worksheets for Practice

Once you’ve taught your students place values, you should give them worksheets to practice. Worksheets are not a good idea to teach students from, but they’re a great tool for extra practice. Take a look at the worksheets offered by Math-Aids. There are a number of different worksheets available, and they also offer  charts you can print out for your students to help them remember their place values.

Some of the offered worksheets involve money, others involve puzzles, and there’s even a nifty little cut and paste worksheet. If you’re teaching your students to write the word names as well as learn the numerical place values, there are worksheets available on Math-Aids to help them practice those too.

If you’re a parent looking to get your student from extra help, use this time to get your preschooler interested in math too. Read this article on preschool mathematics to help your children no matter their age.

Tools for the Classroom

Whether you’re going to use them as teaching tools, pieces for math games, or even tools the students can use to help refresh their memory while working on worksheets, tools can be a great asset when learning math. These tools can be as simple as place value digit cards from Teaching Ideas or as elaborate as a giant magnetic base ten set.

Consider using Teaching Ideas’ digit cards for some of the games offered on their website. These cards would be great when used in the Millionaire Place Value Game instead of having students write down the numbers in the boxes. These cards go up to the thousands, and students can pick the card that has the number they want in the box they wanted it in.

The giant magnetic base ten se is a great tool for your whiteboard instead of having to draw your own blocks. Unfortunately, if you’re planning to teach your students the thousands place, this particular set only includes one cube to be used for thousands. Other than that, this set is perfect for teaching ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands – provided you don’t go beyond 1,999.

Another great tool for the classroom are plastic base ten manipulatives offered by Learning Resources. When purchased in conjunction with the magnetic base ten set, you can use the magnetic set to model the place values while students follow you by building the same number with their manipulatives.

A Few Final Notes to Keep in Mind

Being a teacher can be tough, especially for the younger grades. Keep in mind that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If you’re planning to teach something, there’s a high chance that you’re going to be able to find a lot of resources available in stores or online. Don’t think you have to go it alone, and don’t be afraid to borrow another teacher’s lesson plan. Be sure to teach different approaches to try and reach all learning styles, and don’t forget to build off your students’ previous math knowledge.