There's a reason that most of us start off the year by introducing and reviewing place value concepts. Understanding place value is essential to developing a solid foundation of mathematical understanding.
Introducing Place Value
Whether you are introducing whole number concepts or decimal place value, it's important to start at the concrete level. Even 5th graders aren't too old for base 10 blocks. Primary teachers often use them to introduce whole numbers, but base 10 blocks are also effective with upper elementary students when exploring decimals. Kids have to understand that each place to the left is 10 times the size of the place to the right, and base 10 blocks are the best way to explore that concept.
Using Manipulatives to Introduce Decimals
When introducing decimals, you can use the cubes to represent tens, the flats to represent ones, the rods for tenths, and the units for hundredths. If you are using a place value math mat like the one shown below, draw a decimal point between the ones place and the tenths place. Then write a decimal such as 24.69 on the board and have students work in teams to display it on the team mat. After you check responses, they can write the word name and expanded form. Expanded form is particularly difficult when representing decimals, and using base 10 manipulatives seems to help illustrate the concept. For example, it's easy to see that the number below can be written as 20 + 4 + 0.6 + 0.09 because students can see each place represented with physical objects. The expanded form of this number could also be expressed as 20 + 4 + 6/10 + 9/100 or completely broken down to 20 + 4 + 6 x (1/10) + 9 x (1/100). All of those ways to express decimals are much more easily viewed when looking at a mat such as the one below. Students can also see that each place to the left is 10 times greater than the one on its right.
Whole Number page and the Decimal page in my online Math File Cabinet, and you'll also find links to the games below. My students enjoyed all of these activities, and they were great for math centers and small group instruction.
Place Value Partners - New CCSS Aligned Game!
CCSS 2.NBT.A.3, 4.NBT.2, and 5.NBT.A.3
Place Value Partners is my newest math game for reviewing whole number and/or decimal place value. It's similar to Battleship, but students use a game board with lines for placing numbers and number cards instead of ships and a coordinate grid. See the image below to understand how the game is set up and played. The Sender calls out each digit, one at a time, and tells the Receiver where to place them. When all the numbers are in place, they compare their game boards, check the final number and write its standard form, word name, and expanded form in their math journals or on a recording page.
The packet shown here includes four different variations of the game board to cover everything from 4-digit whole numbers to decimals. Click the cover to preview the entire packet online. It's available in black and white as well as the color version shown in the preview. By the way, the preview version shows 2 images per page to minimize the file size, but the actual packet has full-sized pages. You can purchase this item from my TeachersPayTeachers store and if you grab it before the end of the day today, you'll save 50% off the price!
Place Value Spinner Games
CCSS 4.NBT.2 and 4.NBT.3
Spin 4 Cash Place Value Review Game. In this activity, students practice word names and expanded forms using task cards and a spinner. When they get a correct answer, they may spin for a certain amount of "math cash." I also created an international version called Spin 2 Win that awards tokens instead of cash, and I've packaged both of them together for one price. Both games are great for cooperative learning teams, small guided math groups, or math centers. Click here to find it.
CCSS 2.NBT.4, 4.NBT.2, 5.NBT.3
The final game I want to share with you is I'm the Greatest, a simple activity for comparing numbers. The teacher can play against the class, or students can play against each other in cooperative learning teams. In this game, players attempt to create the largest number by placing randomly-selected numbers on a game board. There's a bit of luck involved, but in order to win, students have to be able to read word names and compare numbers accurately. Click here to find it.
All three of these games are available from my TeachersPayTeachers store. Even if you have already introduced place value concepts, these games make great review and practice activities throughout the year. You've heard that practice makes perfect, and that definitely applies to place value concepts.Plenty of place value practice is needed to make perfect!