Friday, January 1, 2016

Keeping the PLAY in Place Value!

Hi, Teaching Friends!

Happy New Year, and welcome to the January I Teach First Grade Blog Hop!

This is often the time of year that place value teaching hits with full intensity in first grade - it hits teachers, and it hits our students, too!  As with most things we teach, some kids pick it up easily, others ... not so much.  If you're a new teacher and things aren't going smoothly, don't panic! Place value is among the earliest examples of an abstract math concept, and first grade brains aren't always ready for that big step!

To make things easier and definitely happier for everyone, let's keep the play in every stage of learning about place value!

I've gathered together some ideas and printables from blogs and Pinterest to help you as you guide your students from concrete to representational to abstract learning, all while keeping it fun!

Texture and colors make pipe cleaners pretty much an irresistible manipulative. Big and Small is a partner game from Smart First Graders that requires only two dice and a pile of pipe cleaners. To play, one player is designated as Big and the other as Small.  Using one roll of both dice, Big makes the greatest possible number and Small makes the smallest. This is a GREAT visual representation for comparing numbers based on place value! Be sure to check the same post for half a dozen more place value ideas for your firsties.

Play Say It and Show It with this idea that the First Grade Fanatics have adapted from similar ideas on Pinterest. I like what they've added! Pull the cups apart to show the expanded form, push them together to read the number. Differentiate by starting with two cups for tens and ones, and then adding more up through thousands. This is great for building an understanding of place value and also for practice reading large numbers.

Here's another fun tool for Say It and Show It.  This printable place value slider from Suzie's Home Education Ideas would be great for use by a tutor or in small groups. I think I'd try it for some informal assessment, too...

*  "Show me three thousand, four hundred and fifty-six. Now show me a number that has one more ten (one less hundred, two more thousands, etc.). Use Base Ten blocks to make your new number."

Check Susie's Place Value Pinterest Board here for lots more creative ideas!

From Amy Lemons at Step into Second Grade, here's a place value activity with personal connections! Have your students build their names with longs and cubes. Then use printable base ten materials {free ones here, plus other place value goodies from Fun for Learning!} to turn these into a great math display!

Once your students are solidly into the abstract stage of learning about place value, you'll want to try this fun game from Games4Gains. This one is based on Yahtzee. I love working with games that students already have some familiarity with. If they've already played Yahtzee, recruit students to be your Experts. Putting one Expert in each group of players will make things so much easier for you! This set includes detailed instructions for use, plus free (differentiated!!) score cards. This is one that your students will definitely love!

After your students become confident at working with basic place value, there are of course more skills to master, and also more fun to be had!  Here's my gift for you today, a one page board game for practice with adding and subtracting tens to/from multiples of ten.  

The download includes both color and blackline versions. The black and white version is great to send home for family homework. Also included is a themed 120 chart, for students who need a bit of extra support. Click here or on the picture to get your free game.

If you'd like more games like this one, here's a set of winter place value games for first grade. The games are each single page like the one above, and provided in both blackline and color. There's also a parent letter included, in case you'd like to send them home for extra practice. To celebrate this hop, this set is 20% off through January 4th!

I hope you'll join in the fun by visiting the posts of my I Teach First blogging buddies! Click on any of the pictures to stock up on great ideas for your first grade classroom! Then, just for fun, tell us which of the posts were your two favorites by clicking on the little hearts in the upper right corner of the pictures below.


  1. Thanks for linking up with us this month! What great ideas for teaching the concept of place value. This can be tricky for little ones, but I love how you incorporated play into it. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Nicole! I've been looking around, and there are so many great ideas in the posts on this hop!

  2. Great ideas! I love the simple pipe cleaner game idea. Thank you for the freebie! Happy New Year!

  3. I LOVE THIS! Play and learning? Who knew? Happy New Year! wendy 1stgradefireworks

  4. That's just it, Wendy ... we ALL know it, but sometimes all the other demands on teachers make us forget for just a minute. I think it's always a good idea to take a step back once in a while to reassess and redirect.
    Happy New Year to you, too!


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