22 Ways to use Place Value Strips to Teach Math – K-5

Oct 13, 2021

The Math Salad Bar is an excellent tool to use in your classroom! But do you ever feel like you have manipulatives in your Salad Bar or storage closet that you aren’t completely sure how to use with Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract (CPA) thinking? 

(ICYMI – here’s the link to find out all about the famous Math Salad Bar and get our free Menus!)

I’ve been there – they hand you a set of place value strips, maybe a class set of 30 or a small group set of 15, plus a demo set, but nowhere in your math book does it say, “HEY! Use place value strips while you’re teaching this concept!” It can be overwhelming. 

However, place value strips are one of the manipulatives that I truly feel that I could not teach math without. I feel that the use of place value strips (sometimes with an abacus, which we’ll get to later) really helps kids understand our base-10 number system and, if we start using them in Kindergarten, will help build a solid foundation of numeracy which develops into strong number sense.

Organization

First and foremost, we have to make sure that our materials are kid-ready. We highlighted that in the previous blog about the Math Salad Bar, but it’s so important that I’ll repeat it: kids have to be able to access the place value strips in an organized way. Otherwise, you won’t use them, and your students certainly won’t either. Watch the video to see how a little prep and organization up front can make the place value strips easily accessible.

If you don’t have your manipulatives student-ready, you’re going to rely on demonstrating under the document camera where kids don’t have their hands on the tools. I think one of the biggest misconceptions in math is that students don’t need to experience it!  Certainly not all kids need manipulatives all the time, but in that first introductory lesson, it’s SO important for kids to manipulate those place values strips! If they’re able to show a pictorial presentation after that, that’s great. But we like to say the Salad Bar is always open!  If students still need to go get their place value strips, that is definitely okay!

Place Value Strips in a Vertical Zip

You might have learned one or two ways to use the place value strips as a manipulative, but after that, you might not be sure how to use them anymore. But they’re so versatile and we’ll show you ways to use both the whole number place value strips and the decimal strips. 

I always talk about a vertical zip from Kindergarten through 5th grade because I think it’s really important that we use common tools and a common language with students to help them to really understand math from grade to grade. 

So we’re going to take our place value strips and climb from kindergarten all the way to 5th grade – let’s go!

Kindergarten

10 and Some More or “The 10 Way”

In Kindergarten, the language we use with place value strips is “10 and some more” and we usually start using them in February or March as students are learning teen numbers. Using the place value strips, specifically the red tens and the white ones which match our Math Might friend Value Pak, even kids in Kindergarten can start understanding how a number can decompose by place value as they watch the character break apart into 10s and 1s.

Envision a double 10-frame – on the top, I have 10, at the bottom, I have six. You flash that double 10-frame for a kid who says, “The total is 16.” But do they really understand the place value of those numbers? When a child writes the number 16, they write 1 and 6 next to each other, but we want them to understand that 16 is actually 10 and 6. Sometimes we call it “The 10 Way.” So, you might say, “I found the magical number – number 16! Can you say it “The 10 Way”?” You want kids to recognize that it’s 10 and 6. 

I prefer to use the demo place value strips with Kindergarten students, and then have a small set to use with my small groups that only includes the red 10 and the white 1s so students aren’t overwhelmed. I do want students to be able to build the numbers and then physically be able to separate the place value strips and decompose their number by place value, just like Value Pak does. This experience is truly powerful, and is a stepping stone in Kindergarten for students to understand higher numbers as they get to first grade.

Related Math Mights Episodes:

The 10 Way:

1st Grade

Are there ways that we can use place value strips in first grade? Absolutely! As with Kindergarten, the opportunities to use place value strips in first grade might not come until a little bit later in the year because we want to spend really important time on numeracy development in first grade. However, as we enter into units where we’re talking about adding 10 more or 10 less, the place value strips are an invaluable resource to use with this particular strategy. 

First, let’s talk about hundreds charts. To me, this is a very abstract tool because students don’t fully understand the patterns within it. They might start to understand how the numbers are changing, but do they really connect it with numeracy and do they understand the number sense of a hundreds chart? 

Envision a typical first grade student looking at a hundreds chart. I ask the student to tell me what is 10 more than 68. I’m standing there, pointing at 68 on the chart, thinking this is an easy one and just waiting for the student to say 78. But what does the student do? He starts counting, “1, 2, 3, 4…” I whisper, “It’s 10 more, you just need to go down a row.” But the student continues counting as he gives me a baffled look thinking, you’re telling me to go down? But I thought you wanted 10 MORE? Eventually, he gets to 78, but he hasn’t noticed anything about the pattern.

But if you think about it, how abstract is that?? You go DOWN a row, but it’s 10 MORE? Most kids don’t really understand what’s happening there because they don’t have a vivid understanding of place value. 

10 More/10 Less

To help this make sense, I like to pair an abacus with the place value strips for kids in first grade to create an in-depth look at finding 10 more or 10 less within the patterns of our place value system. Check out episode 216 of the Math Mights show for a visual!

Now, envision a child building 68 on the abacus – 6 rows of ten and 8 ones. I also have the student build it with place value strips – the red 60 and the white 8, just like Value Pak. We can put it together to show 68, and decompose it to think of it as 60 and 8. Now, when I ask the child to think about 10 more, we have a better frame of reference. We have to think about what place we’re even talking about when we want 10 more. I want students to show me, on the abacus, the groups of 10 and correlate that with the place value strips to show that we’re focused on the 60. Then, if students need to, they can pull over 10 beads – two more to finish that row, and then 8 additional beads – which results in 78. It’s important for kids to see the change in numbers that happened there. Often, they’re pretty good at skip counting by 10s, so we can look at 50, 60 – what’s next? – 70. So, grab the 70 place value strip, put it together with the 8, and we can see that 10 more than 68 is 78. Obviously, we can do this same process with 10 less. 

If students have learned their teen numbers with “10 and some more” by looking at 16 as 10 and six, that is a great springboard to be able to look at numbers to decide what is 10 more or 10 less. 

10s and 10s and 1s and 1s

Place value strips can be very valuable in first grade when you’re learning how to add 10s and 10s and 1s and 1s. Math Might Show 310 really features the idea of using our place value strips to show this process. 

For this concept, we want students to think about their number, let’s use 15, and how it decomposes into 10 and 5. In fact, this animation is a great visual for kids to see how Value Pak pops apart. But we also want them to think of decomposing the second addend. If our problem is 15 + 12, we want them to use place value strips to solve with a concept called partial sums, but on a first grade level we call it 10s and 10s and 1s and 1s. 

First, we decompose the 15 into 10 and 5, then we decompose the 12 into 10 and 2. We add the 10s together – 10 + 10 = 20. Then we add the 1s – 5 + 2 = 7. Now we have 20 and 7, which we can build with place value strips and completely conceptually visualize how we’re adding those pieces together. 

In first grade, students get an introduction to how to use place value strips, begin to understand that our numbers can decompose by place value which will assist them with 10 more and 10 less. Even in that place value unit, using the place value strips along with your abacus will get kids to really see numbers that are in the 10s and 1s in any way they are presented. This understanding is key as a springboard into second grade.

In first grade, I always like to have a demo place value strips, and we would be introducing the orange Value Pak here, which you can see in the picture, along with the red 10 and the white one.  All three colors, as we expand each of our Value Pak characters, actually match the manipulatives to further solidify the conceptual idea of place value.

2nd Grade

Second grade is a BIG year for place value strips! 

Expanded Form

In second grade, no matter where your place value unit falls in the year, one of the first and easiest things to do is use place value strips to help students visualize numbers. Look at the number 235, and look at it in expanded form, which is exactly what Value Pak does when they snap apart (decompose) their bodies. Kids will notice that they wear their value on their belly! (When I’m in classrooms, this is where they usually ask if that’s why I named them Value Pak – which is absolutely right!) When they’re packed together, Value Pak shows their total value. When they are separate individuals, they show their individual values on their bellies. This is so important!

In my classroom many years ago, I used a flip chart for place value that was labeled with 100s, 10s, and 1s, but I remember that it didn’t ever show the values. In the hundreds place, it just had the numbers 1-9 to flip over. I would see 9 in the hundreds place, but it wouldn’t show 900. 

This is why I think the place value strips are vitally important. In 2nd grade, kids are doing this through 1000! We really need them to understand the values they’re working with and be able to decompose by place value! 

We have a Place Value Basics introduction video and some place value videos specific for 2nd Grade that are really excellent for this idea of kids really understanding place value using their place value strips.

Can students tell you which digit is in each place? If you let them build the number that you’re talking about in place value, they really can gain a better understanding. You might ask what digit is in the hundreds place, so students can point to the orange strip, which we know is our 100s spot, and the digit means the numeral that we’re looking at. It’s a 4, so that’s what you’re asking. But asking about the value of that 4 is a different question. With place value strips, kids can literally pull apart the place value strips and prove that that 4 is worth 400. 

Additionally, the colors of the place value strips correspond with the place value discs to further reinforce the idea of place and where numbers live.

10 More, 10 Less

In second grade, we also look at 10 more and 10 less, and even have kids adjust numbers in different ways. We have really great video tutorials and classroom-ready PowerPoints available for you here → 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, Decimals.

This is the same concept that we talked about in first grade, but using higher numbers and wrapping around different decades or even into the hundreds. Let’s look at 532 – what is 10 less? As we build this 3-digit number, we want kids to be able to focus on the 10s place and see that we’re not actually talking about the 1s or the 100s. Being able to isolate the 10s by decomposing the number by place value helps them think about that.

But then what happens when you build the number 199 and ask students to find 10 more? This forces kids to think about all the things that are changing and that’s what makes “10 more, 10 less” in second grade a little bit more complex. There are lots of things that are changing within those numbers in second grade and the place value strips will really give kids that conceptual understanding as they visualize the changes. 

In our classroom-ready lesson, our PowerPoint contains examples showing this harder part of the concept. I also demonstrate how to use the abacus to solve a problem like 10 more than 199, in conjunction with the place value strips. You don’t need more than one abacus to show the higher 3-digit numbers – you can put 100 at the top of the abacus and 200 at the bottom to help kids conceptualize building 199.

Partial Sums

Partial sums makes a comeback in second grade, but this time, with a regroup. If we leave out the place value strips here, we’re just assuming that students have the conceptual understanding for this concept, when in fact we can build an imprint using the concrete tool of the place value strips to get kids to really visualize what’s happening. 

Students can certainly look at this with a pictorial representation of the number bond and decomposing numbers. But it is so valuable to show students how to do partial sums with decomposing by place value using place value strips. In second grade, you can act out the process of regrouping with much higher numbers, as we’re adding all the way through 1000. We want students to see that you can add 100s, add the 10s, add the 1s, and then combine. Students can decompose by place value, show the regroup, and show the actual value of that number. 

If you’re able to work with students in groups, you can incorporate conversation into your place value strips by splitting up the responsibilities. One student can be responsible for the 100s, one student for the 10s, and one is responsible for the 1s. As they work through a problem together, they have to talk about what they’re doing, how they’re understanding partial sums, and how they have to work together to display the manipulatives to show the solution.

Obviously as conceptual understanding is being built, we want to move to that pictorial piece, but the place value strips really can help kids have that memory, especially when you couple it with Value Pak.

Subtraction

Good ol’ T-Pops shows up to use place value strips with subtraction in second grade, though still Value Pak likes to peek in! We have several different videos showing this concept. We start by building the minuend, which is the first number in subtraction, with the discs and we build the subtrahend with the place value strips so students can really see what it is they’re subtracting.

Let’s take 45 – 27. We build 45 in discs on the top of the T-Pops Place Value Mat and 27 in place value strips at the bottom. Can we take 7 away from 5? We have kids actually put the 5 discs on top of the 7 strip to really see if they can take it away, which they can’t. We like kids to leave those discs on top of their 7 strip so that they can look at the process of regrouping.  We  go over and grab a 10s disc and change the number from 45 to three 10s and 15 ones, so they really get a good visual and understand that traditional process. Now, we pick up that 7 and, knowing we already have 5 discs, we take 2 additional discs from the ones and we can subtract. Then, we can do the same with the 10s. 

I think it’s really valuable in second grade when we’re teaching T-Pops and regrouping, that kids are really using those place value strips to help them really understand exactly what we’re doing with them. This video tutorial will really help you see how you might go about applying that concept!

3rd Grade

Place value strips play an integral part in instruction for third grade as well. Students are coming from second grade with some knowledge of place value and of partial sums, but as they start their third grade year, place value is one of the biggest concepts they study, along with the early stages of multiplication and division. 

Expanded Form

It’s important to use place value strips in looking at expanded form, as we did in second grade, but this time, we’re looking at numbers within 1000. Again, we want students to be able to decompose by place value, like Value Pak does. We want them to look at 925 and be able to pull it apart – how many 100s? How many 10s? How many 1s? And students might also creatively rename those numbers. 925 could also be nine 100s, one 10 and 15 ones. Place value strips help students see the concept as they apply their understanding.

Rounding

Another huge thing that happens in third grade is rounding. I don’t know about you, but rounding is one of the most difficult areas to teach in third grade. We often feel like we’re banging our heads against the wall trying to figure out exactly how to help students understand this concept. The place value strips are a really great way to start! We actually have done all the work for you for this one. Check out our classroom-ready lessons (complete with videos and PowerPoints) that you can use in your classroom to show how place value strips can break down the concept of rounding to help students be successful rounding to the nearest 10 and nearest 100. 

Rounding to the Nearest 100

Let’s start with 842 – is it closer to 800 or 900? Often, I like to use place value strips along with a number line to enhance this visual and help students make a decision. After we build the number with our place value strips (meet the orange 100s Value Pak character!), we can physically pull that 800 and put it on one end of the number line. Grab a 900 and put it on the other end. Now, students need to decide where the remaining 42 goes. Would it come before or after the midpoint?

Teachers say that students often struggle to find the midpoint, and I definitely agree that is a tricky skill. I like to transition to an abacus here to help it click. Typically, I put the 800 place value strip at the top of the abacus, and the 900 at the bottom. I remind kids that an abacus houses 100 beads, and have them stop me when I get to the midpoint. It shouldn’t take long for the light bulb to go on, especially if you’re using an abacus that switches colors at 50. So, now they know that 850 is the midpoint between 800 and 900. Back to the number line!

Kids plot their new midpoint on the number line and then have to decide if their 842 will be between 800 and 850, or between 850 and 900. If they place their 42 on the number line, they can see that it’s not past the midpoint, so its best to round down to 800. If it was on the other side, they could round up to 900. 

When I do this, kids say, “Oh, is that what rounding is all about?” So many times in rounding, we want them to “underline the number, circle it, and ask if it is five and higher – round up – or four and lower – round down.” That is a procedure that our kids do NOT understand. Instead, being able to look at the process of decision making that takes place in rounding to see what we’re actually doing is really important in today’s world. Many of our assessments based on the Math Practices require students to explain their answer after they round. Spitting back a process of circling the number, etc. is not an explanation, and is certainly not attending to place value.

Get the Rounding to Nearest 100 Classroom-Ready Lesson! 

Rounding to the Nearest 10

The same process works for rounding to the nearest 10 as well. If we used 842 again, we’d be asking if the number was closer to 840 or 850. To help students focus, we can actually remove the 800 place value strip, as shown in our tutorial video, and just work with the red 10s and white 1s strips. Now, we’re just looking at 40 and 50 – where does 42 go? Some kids will need to build it on the abacus to visualize it. We can put the 40 and 50 place value strips on either side of the row on the abacus and build 42. Kids can easily see that it would be a lot easier to push the two beads back to keep it at 40 than to pull eight beads across to round up to 50.

This method of rounding really helps rounding make sense to kids, and takes the pain out of teaching a difficult concept. As I’ve shared this with teachers, they’ve been seeing great success with students truly understanding what’s happening when they round. 

Get the Rounding to Nearest 10 Classroom-Ready Lesson Bundle

Addition – Partial Sums

Place value strips are also an important part of addition and subtraction in third grade, when we’re reviewing our knowledge all the way through 1000. Of course, kids will use T-Pops and the traditional method, but for students that are struggling or if you just want students to learn to solve a different way, partial sums is a great choice.

Of course, in third grade, our numbers are higher. Let’s take 325 + 436. First, students need to build the numbers and decompose them by place value. I like everyone to do this together the first time. Then they can combine them again. This should bring back some memories from second grade, but build on them as they act out the process with higher numbers. Then, for the students that are ready, they can show the pictorial representation. Of course, any student that wants concrete tools can skip over to the Math Salad Bar and grab the place value strips to help them at any time!

Subtraction – Traditional Method

In third grade, we really start applying the traditional method to subtraction. As we did in second grade, I like using the place value strips along with the discs, but this time we use numbers within 1000. We can build the minuend, the first number, with place value discs, and then build the subtrahend, second number, with the strips. We have a really great video clip of this in action during a teacher training the other day! Using both the discs and the strips is so helpful to get kids to really see what they’re taking away and how they’re renaming and regrouping numbers. 

Multiplication

We know, when we move into multiplication in our third grade year, students typically start with patterns of multiplication, understanding arrays, and those kinds of things. But we also want to start students understanding how the strategy of D.C., decomposing, applies in multiplication. This is where D.C. meets Value Pak!

When kids are presented with a problem like 12 x 6, they might just skip it and say they don’t know the answer. Typically, when students skip count, the higher groups get a little bit more difficult. But if they think about it with place value, they can actually solve this problem!

Start with building 12 with place value strips, and putting the 6 on the table as well. Taking the 12, we want to think about D.C. smashing the number and Value Pak separating, so we can look at the number as 10 and 2. Now, we can bring the 6 back into it. Do we know 10 x 6? Yes! It’s 60, so we can grab the 60 place value strip. Do we know 2 x 6? Yes! It’s 12, so we can build 12 with place value strips. Then, students can see that we’re going to combine 60 + 12 to get our answer of 72.

To see this in action, check out the 3rd Grade Math Mights Show, Episode 218.

Acting out a problem like this with place value strips is a really great way to help students to really understand the concept of multiplication. We start light in third grade, with two-digit by one-digit multiplication problems, and in 4th grade, we’ll move into the two-digit by two-digit problems. Eventually, this partial products strategy will turn into the idea of understanding multiplication with area models as we move into fourth grade. But for now, the idea of decomposing by place value is a great strategy to apply to multiplication!

4th Grade

Expanded Form

Are you surprised? We also want to start fourth grade by reinforcing the concept of expanded form and really helping students look at the value of the numbers, this time going up through 1,000,000. Sometimes, in fourth grade, we also do something called expanded notation, which is looking at the multiplication that’s happening when we look at place value. 

Our student-sized place value strips only go up to 1000, because it would be cumbersome to have 30 sets going all the way through a million. So, for this year, I particularly like using our demo place value strips as we build bigger numbers because so many kids just can’t visualize what those numbers look like. Using the demo set, kids can actually separate out a number like 85,450 to see that it’s 80,000 plus 5000, and so forth.

Also, reading numbers can become really complex for kids at this level. When they see a number like 40,523, they might see that as two numbers, 40 and 523, separated by a comma. Along with a place value chart on the wall, the demo place value strips can help students see how we’re naming the numbers, what place the numbers are in, and what colors they are. As they’re building their numbers with place value strips, what students read them out loud. Pull out the 40,000 place value strip to show kids what that really looks like. 

Estimating and Rounding

In fourth grade, place value strips do a fine job of helping students understand the process of estimating and rounding. Again, we use the same concepts from third grade using the place value strips, but with larger numbers. If we want to round 1,673 to the nearest 100, we put the 1000 off to the side and focus on the 100s. Remember, the number line line is a great companion to the place value strips here!

Kids will also experience how larger numbers change in value depending on which place we round it to. Fourth graders might apply a bit higher depth of knowledge to rounding, and have to apply it a little more flexibly. They might see a list of numbers and the question like: “Which numbers would be the same if I was rounding it by 10s? Or by 100s?” 

Get our Rounding to Nearest 10 within 1000 Classroom-Ready Lesson Bundle!

Subtraction

Fourth graders, especially those that may be struggling a little bit more when subtracting higher numbers, can certainly use place value strips for subtraction. Ideally, however, students have done this in second and third grade, and by the time they get to fourth grade, the process of subtraction is more automatic, with a deep understanding of the procedure they’re applying.

Multiplication – Partial Products with Area Model

Place value strips really shine when we’re looking at partial products with the area model, which is a big thing that’s taught in fourth grade. 

Think back to 12 x 6, which we did in third grade. Now, we can apply that decomposing strategy to a larger problem: 25 x 35. Of course, we start by building those numbers with place value strips, and then create an area box with the 10s and the 1s. We want students to physically move the place value strips to decompose by place value and act it out.

We decompose the 25 into 20 and 5 and the 35 into 10 and 5, but then spread that out onto an area model. Typically, when I’m using the place value strips, I will take the second factor and flip it, so I will decompose 35 into 5 and 30. The reason for doing that is to have kids go through the process in the same direction they would be doing it in the traditional method. 

Then we start solving – 5 x 5 is 25, 5 x 20 is 100 – acting it out and putting the numbers in the box. Whether you use the place value strips to model the decomposing on the area model and then actually have students physically put the place value strips in there, or just have them write it, this process forces students to hone in on the value of the numbers. Usually kids just say 5 x 5, and 5 x 2, but that’s not really what the problem is asking. That 2 is actually a 20, and the place value strips remind us of its value!

Finishing that problem, looking at the second number you can think of a traditional method. 30 x 5 and 30 x 20. Then, we add the amounts up in the area box to help us to solve.

This whole process is demonstrated and explained in more detail in our Multiplication Progression video series (one of our classroom-ready lessons!). It’s a great visual, conceptual way to help kids transition from the area model into just regular partial products and to establish a foundation of understanding for the traditional method in multiplication.

5th Grade

Decimals enter the scene as we move into fifth grade! I’m confident that, if kids have had repeated experiences with whole numbers and place value strips in earlier grades, this transition to decimals will be made much easier for them as fifth graders. 

Of course, we want to apply all of the concepts we’ve talked about with whole numbers in fifth grade, except, now we’re using numbers that are smaller than one.

Expanded Form and Expanded Notation

Again, we want kids to understand how to decompose numbers by place value as they build a number like 25.19. Often, kids refer to that as “twenty-five point one nine” but that is not  attending to place value. As kids build decimal numbers, and realize that our brown Value Pak is going to show us the numbers that are in the 10ths and the green one shows us the 100ths, they start to see if they’re reading it correctly. 

Also, are they able to understand the value of each of those numbers? If I have a seven, and it’s brown, what is the value on that place value strip? Kids can pull out the place value strip to see that it is actually seven 10ths. We can also relate this to money – .7 is equal to seven dimes – and fractions – 7/10 – so students can constantly make connections in their understanding.

Logistically, using place value strips in fifth grade is a bit complicated, as we go all the way through 1000ths and then we have whole numbers through millions. We still want to keep the place value strips accessible to students, however. Usually, I like to keep my whole number place value strips separate from my decimal place value strips, but there are times when students will need one of each. To minimize distraction, I might only give students the red 10s and white 1s, and then all three of their 10ths, 100ths, and 1000ths.

Got a Math Mights poster? Be sure to check out the Value Pak strategy video with decimals to see how this works!

Addition

Even when adding decimals, students can use partial sums and decompose numbers by place value. It might take a bit of thinking, but it can be very telling as to which students really do have an understanding of place value. I would recommend starting out with numbers that don’t require a regroup.

Let’s look at 17.15 and I wanted to be able to add that to 15.32, can the kids decompose by place value the same way that we do partial sums with whole numbers? It’s really interesting to see how kids make that connection!  The visual of pulling apart the numbers by place value helps them keep tabs on the value when they’re adding their tenths and adding their hundredths in that decimal format. Check out the Math Mights Addition Showdown (scroll down for the decimal video).

Subtraction – Traditional

The same concept we used in fourth grade applies to the traditional method of subtraction for fifth grade, just with decimals. Don’t forget to check out the video in our video library – the Math Might Subtraction Showdown (scroll down for the decimal video)! 

We start by building the minuend with the discs and the subtrahend with the strips so kids can see how we’re taking the 4.2 away from the 8.1. When we do this process on the place value mat, we can see there is 3.8 left. I think it is important that students come to a good understanding of the traditional method with the manipulatives and then, as they’re ready, move to quick draws with place value discs and strips and show how they’re doing subtraction traditionally.

Multiplication – Partial Products with Area Model

Place value strips are an amazing tool to use for fifth grade as they are multiplying larger numbers using partial products with the area model. 

I’d recommend sticking to multiplying a whole number by a decimal in an area model for using place value strips. When we start multiplying decimals by decimals, it gets a little tricky because you don’t really have the necessary pieces to demonstrate the process clearly.

Let’s do 5 x 1.12. We could decompose the one, the one 10th and the two 100ths and put that whole number multiplier on the left side of the area model, Then, we can go through and let kids exchange. It’s so eye opening to watch to see how kids go about solving! If they’re doing 5 x 1, obviously they know it’s one. But when they look at 5 x .02, they really have think about it!  What is the value of that? It would be five times two, which I know is 10,  but it’s not really the value of 10. It’s hundredths! How many hundreds are there in .1? This thought process is (no pun intended) invaluable. I think that kids can really make a big connection about how they can have more or less within a value.

Place value starts pretty simply in the younger grades, but as we get into fifth grade standards, it can be really complicated. If we don’t start with a good foundation for understanding place value, and instead have students memorizing procedures for concepts they don’t understand, place value can very quickly become mucky for kids. They don’t know what they’re doing or when they’re supposed to do things, they start guessing and, since they have no number sense at the core, it all falls apart underneath them.

Place value strips are a tool that I truly could not teach without. From Kindergarten all the way through fifth grade, place value strips are one of Shannon’s Top Tools and will ALWAYS be found in her Math Salad Bar. 

The book isn’t going to tell you, “Hey! Get out our place value strips to teach this!” Sometimes, we feel stuck teaching a specific lesson the way the book says to even though we’re met with blank stares from uncomprehending students. But remember, the book isn’t your curriculum! It’s a resource to which you can add your OWN knowledge! My hope is that, now that you know different when it comes to rounding or teaching 10 more/10 less, you can do different with place value strips! 

Download your FREE Quick Reference Guide!

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember all the things we need to do with those place value strips though, and if you’re like me, I just need a little nudge. That’s why Value Pak created a quick reference guide for you! Just print, cut into quarters and put the cards on a ring so you can quickly remind yourself of the strategies you have available!

Are you using place value strips in your classroom?

We’d LOVE to see how you do it! Do you use a Math Salad Bar? Do you have a different organizational system? Post a picture on social media or send it to us in an email – support@sis4teachers.org.  

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Math Might Teacher’s Guide: Episodes 403-404

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I can't believe that we've made it to the end of our Math Might shows for this second semester, shows 403 and 404! They both have some really great material for you to check out!Episodes 403-404400 Series Focus: Numeracy/Number Talks We’re going to continue the number...