3 Easy Activities to Build a Strong Foundation for Place Value

In every elementary grade level, what skill do you see show up at the beginning of the year?  If you said place value, you would be correct.  Place value is HUGE in all grade levels.  It is the foundation of many other math skills that the child will build upon.  BUUUUUTTTT, what do I see happen all the time?  It is practiced for a month or so until a new skill needs to be addressed and that new skill takes its place.  It's understandable.  There's a lot in the curriculum.  However, place value skills show up in the common core standards and many state tests like air is to us breathing!  That's why I'm focusing on 3 easy activities to build a strong foundation for place value for students.

Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again {first grade, second grade, third grade}

"Understanding place value" grows in complexity every year.  By 3rd grade students are expected to be experts in place value so they can "fluently add and subtract within 1000" using number sense strategies based on place value (I'm pretty sure that might even be my 2nd grade standard!).  How do we meet such lofty expectations?  Use these place value activities to help nurture, grow and expand your student's understanding.

Number Chants

The first activity to build a strong foundation in place value is number chants.  Students start to comprehend place value when you have them orally practice saying the number.  I usually introduce this whole group.  I place a number on the board and students have to read it out loud.  So for 321, the students would chant "three hundred twenty-one."  It's a great way to get rid of those 'ands' they always want to put in between.  

Make this fun!  We chant in different ways - boys, girls, whisper, yell, slow-mo, high-pitch, low-pitch, cheerleader, etc...  You can grab them HERE or by clicking on the picture.

Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again  {first grade, second grade, third grade}

Once we understand how to orally say the words, we can put them in writing. Writing out the numbers as words can help your students recognize which numbers are hundreds, tens, and ones.  Students can also read the number aloud to help with comprehension in both reading and math.  This skill is also important in financial literacy.  Although check writing isn't as common today, it's still a skill students need to practice!

Number Breakdowns

There are so many ways to form 3-digit numbers!  Even if you're focusing just on addition, there are multiple options to add numbers to equal the target solution.  These are found in many Number Talks resources and I agree it's very imperative for student understanding of numbers.

One easy way, again I start in whole group, is to put a "target number on the board."  I collect equations from the class.  I call this Number Breakdown.  It's a great whole-group activity.  Eventually your students who sit silent will begin to participate after many of these are practiced.  They will catch on to some of the other student's thinking and offer suggestions.

Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again {first grade, second grade, third grade}

Remember those number chants?  That is a great way to get our struggling students participating.  If they can SAY a number, then they can write the expanded form to most numbers.  Literally each number they say is written down, add your plus signs, and they're golden!

As a visual, I also try to show how the students came up with their equation.  I show how they separated the hundreds, tens or ones.  See the pic below.


Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again  {first grade, second grade, third grade}


Using a different number of the day every day of the year will let your students practice different equations and ways of forming 3-digit numbers using addition.  Understanding ways to form numbers using equations is the basis of algebraic thinking and mental math which is something that will be a necessity for your students.  This activity is essential to building a strong foundation for place value.

Creating Model Forms

Model forms are essential for understanding place value.   Place value mats are an important tool to help your students understand how to understand the concrete to abstract relationship.  You can get my maps by clicking HERE.

Allow time for students to use base ten blocks to represent certain numbers.  Students should spend some time creating numbers like 134, 229 and other 3-digit numbers to understand the hundreds, tens ones relationship.  Once these are created, base ten blocks are a great way to show how to manipulate the blocks to create the same number.

For instance, 143 can be 1 hundred 4 tens and 3 ones OR 1 hundred 3 tens and 13 ones.  Conversely, you can give students a number like 2 hundreds 3 tens and 17 ones for the students to create the number in standard form.  This is why I am and advocate of the place value mat that has two ten-frames on it.  This helps students understand the relationship between the values.   Don't forget the relationship between 10's and 100's as well for students!

Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again {first grade, second grade, third grade}


The importance of understanding model form will help your students transition nicely from basic addition and subtraction to addition and subtraction with regrouping.  The concept will be easier for your students to understand and apply.  If you are just starting out, you may want to read about how to teach 2-digit addition with regrouping first.

Those are the 3 EASY activities to build a strong foundation for place value.  The importance of place value understanding is so critical, that it should really be something that is practiced daily. A literacy expert, Timothy Shanahan studied that students need to see a word approximately 10-15 times to learn it fully.  A special education student would take double that amount of time!  Imagine what that number would be for automaticity in mathematics where concepts are so abstract!  Practice is key.

In my number of the day worksheets, I offer a wide variety of activities to practice using 3-digit numbers.  These activities are important for your student's development of number sense and place value.  I have three products available around this concept.

Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again {first grade, second grade, third grade}


My 2-digit and 3-digit number of the day packets will help your students practice these important skills for 60 days!  Each day has a different number with the same skills.  Students can easily work on these during bellwork, small groups, or centers.  The questions and outline remain the same.  Grab a sample of my number of the day packets HERE.

Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again {first grade, second grade, third grade}

If you are really serious about keeping those place value skills going, I also offer a 3-digit Number of the Day Holiday Bundle that will INCREASE in difficulty.  Students will practice the same skill for a month at a time and then the following month, 3-4 new activities will be added building off the previous skills.  This is a great way for students to see the same place value skills in a variety of ways!  If you're interested in seeing those skills, CLICK HERE.

Place Value is integral in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades.  Place Value activities do not have to be difficult.  I have come up with 3 activities that you can start whole group and eventually to independent practice.  I hit 3-Digit place value activities throughout the entire year spiraling skills with worksheets for daily independent practice.  Check out my freebie printables included and make learning fun again {first grade, second grade, third grade}

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