Saturday, March 22, 2014

Solving the Puzzle of Place Value

Hello, Teaching Friends1

Do you ever find that you assume one of your more capable students has control over a topic, but then you discover that he or she actually lacks some of the undergirding that will be crucial for further understanding? Sometimes smart kids can be such foolers! They're often so independent that they it's easy to miss the little gaps that could actually be pretty important to their progress as time goes by.

My oldest grandchild is one of those bright kids {disclaimer: that's not just grandma talking! :) }.
M is a homeschooled kindergartener who's a voracious reader and talented in math, too. While she's zooming along counting money, telling time, and multiplying, and she uses numbers naturally and easily, I was wondering how much she really understands about place value. I know that she hasn't had any explicit instruction with Base 10 materials yet, and I wanted to do some exploring with her. So today we did some playing with a BIG pile of Legos ...


...and this great set of puzzles from Tara,  The Elementary Math Maniac.

We started by making a few sticks of ten, and then went on to some practice with counting by tens. Then we added some single Legos in, and M did some counting by tens and then counting on by ones.
So far, so good!

Things were going along smoothly, 30s, 40s, 50s, ... and then the assistant arrived. Zeta is a really sweet dog, although I don't think she photographs nearly as beautiful as she really is. Actually, she's a gorgeous but crazy eight-month-old Portugese Water Dog who'd really love to eat all of those Legos, or at least take them away from us and chew them into some unrecognizable state!

We scooted Zeta out of the room for a little while.
Back to the place value explorations. Time to move on to the representational stage, using Tara's puzzle cards. The cards made the transition an easy one for M.  Now she's comfortable with the formal "school" representations for place value, which will be important should she ever be in a traditional classroom or for when she takes standardized tests.


Now it was time to try a little addition. The set includes puzzles for adding ones to groups of tens and ones, but I decided to move on to adding a ten to a group of tens and ones. We modeled it with the Legos a few times, and then M handled the puzzles with no problem.

This set was perfect for assessing control of place value. It would also be great for ongoing use in a math center, tutoring, or homeschool setting.

The complete math puzzle bundle also includes puzzles for...

Addition Doubles and Neighbors, also with Base 10 representations
Base 10 representation/ Numeral matching for 100-120
Decomposing ten, with matching to subtraction number models
Adding ones to one ten
Adding single digit numbers to nine
Ten more/ ten less
Subtracting multiples of ten
Telling time to the hour and half hour

With seven years experience as a K-6 math specialist, Tara has done a really great job of nailing the top topics for first grade math and presenting them in an easy-to-prepare and easy-to-use format. Each of the puzzles in this set also includes a worksheet suitable for practice or assessment, and an answer key for the worksheet. Common Core correlation for each topic is included, too. This is a set you'll find yourself turning to again and again, all through the school year.

Thanks for sharing the bundle with me, Tara. M thanks you, too.

As for Zeta... she's still hoping to get a taste of one of those Legos.

Happy Teaching!


  1. They worked out perfectly! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to use this great set, Tara!

  2. That is such a fun post! Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. Thanks, Laura! Having such a sweet student to work with made using this great resource even more of a pleasure!
    Mom XOXOX


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