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How to Teach Place Value: Fun and Creative Ideas for Your Classroom

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Photo of Cassie (Teach Starter)
Updated | 10 min read

Understanding of place value in elementary school is essential. This is the last brick in building number sense in elementary students. It’s important that place value be taught using concrete materials and not just numbers on a piece of paper.

How do you teach place value and make it fun? Our teacher team has you covered! Using hands-on activities when teaching your students about place value will help develop a solid conceptual understanding of place value, and we have a mix of hands-on activities and games ready for the job.

What Is Place Value?

If this is your first year teaching math — or you haven’t taught it in awhile — it may be worth a quick refresher! Place value is the worth of any digit, relative to its position within a number. For example, if you have the number 12,345, the “1” is in ten thousandths place and its place value is 10,000. The “2” in that same number is in the thousandths place and its place value is 3,000.

Place value charts come in handy when you teach place value, as they allow students to find the value of a digit by breaking down a larger number.

Print a free thousandths place value chart for your students now!

How Do You Teach Place Value in a Fun Way?

Trying to make place value lessons more fun and engaging, and looking for place value activities that get your kids as excited about math as you are?

We’ve put together gamified methods for teaching kids to round up and round down numbers, calculate based on their knowledge of place value, a math twist on the old game Guess Who?, a place value version of Yahtzee, and more! Check out these engaging and creative ways to teach your students place value.

Place Value Missiles

If you are looking for an active way to teach place value, we’ve got just the right place value game for you. Place Value Missiles is an action-packed game that involves targeting numbers using airborne creatures to generate a two to five-digit number! Yes, we’re suggesting you let kids throw things in the classroom, but we promise it’s worth it!

place value activity for kids from IKEA

To enjoy place value games dart style, you’ll need an IKEA LUSTIGT Dart game. It’s just $14.99 and includes a reversible dartboard and six cute figures that you can use again and again, but you can also check the dollar store for an alternate version if you don’t have an IKEA in your neck of the woods.

Activity Idea (small group or whole class):

  1. Encourage students to take turns to throw a “missile”.
  2. As a class, record the numbers hit.
  3. Arrange the digits to create a number with the greatest/smallest possible value.
  4. Expand each digit to show the value of each digit.

Race Up the Rounding Ladder

Are your students up to the challenge of using this fun, engaging place value game,  4-Digit Place Value Game – Race Up the Rounding Ladder? Of course, they are!

To play this place value game, your students will need knowledge and understanding of rounding numbers up or down to the nearest 10. This game also offers the option of rounding numbers to the nearest 100 or 1,000.

How to Play

Working with a partner, students take turns to:

  1. Pick a card.
  2. Round the number on the number cards to the nearest 10, 100, or 1,000 (depending on what is decided before commencing the game).
  3. If they round the number up, they move up the ladder on their game board.
  4. If they round the number down, they move down the ladder.

The student who reaches the top of the ladder on their game board first is the winner!


What’s My Card? Double-Digit Board Game

The What’s My Card? Double-Digit Board Game for teaching place value has been designed to use in conjunction with a Guess Who? game board to teach place value. Players try to guess their opponent’s mystery card by asking place value questions.

Double digit place value game

This teaching resource includes:

  • set of game cards (front and back)
  • set of mystery cards (front and back)
  • instruction page with possible questions players can use.

Look out for the printing instructions that come with this cool teaching resource. And don’t miss the What’s My Card? Resource Pack that includes a ton of other versions of this game that explore other learning areas, including an editable version.


Place Value Bingo Game – Numbers 0–1,000,000

Everybody loves bingo! Having a range of bingo cards ready to go for place value understanding is a great way to bulk up your math center activities!

place value bingo

Use this place value activity to reinforce your students’ understanding of numbers up to one million. Print the place value bingo cards here — there are even blank game cards for your students to create their own!


Single Digit Place Value Activities

Check out these fun activities that help teach the value of single digits.

Alien Eyes Number Game

Alien eyes place value activity

  • Download, print, and cut out a few sets of the Alien Eyes Number Game resources.
  • Place students into pairs and provide each pair with a set of alien templates, alien eyes, and number cards.
  • Students pick a number card and then place the matching number of eyes onto their alien. The student with the alien with the most eyes wins!

1–20 Clothes Line Number Cards

number t-shirts to peg onto a clothesline - photos by Teacher Types

Images by Lauren Hunt of Teacher Types

  • Download and print the 1-20 number cards.
  • With clothespins, ask the students to attach the numbers to a piece of string in sequential order, creating a clothesline of numbers.
  • For a challenge, have some of the numbers already attached and ask the students to identify which numbers are missing from the clothesline.

Here are some more of our best single digit place value activities:

 


2-Digit Place Value Activities

2-Digit Place Value Card Game – Flip It!

Next up, it’s time to Flip It! This place value game is similar to the dice game Yahtzee. Students try to fill in a 2-digit number next to every place value clue on their score sheet. The player who has filled in the most numbers on their score sheet at the end of the game is the winner.

2-digit place value card game

In this game, students review their understanding of place value to hundreds.

We’ve started with just two digits here, but if your students are ready for more of a challenge with larger numbers, try:


The Number Pattern Robot

Place value activity for kids

  • This is a fun place value activity to help students identify number patterns and their rules.
  • Download and print sets of The Number Pattern Robot templates and number cards.
  • Students place a rule in the robot’s tummy, then place a number on either side to match the rule.
  • Encourage students to record their rules and number patterns after they have made them on their robots.

Place Value Spin

Place Value Spin

  • Download this fun Place Value Spinner resource.
  • Choose between a Base-10 spinner and a 0 to 9 digit number spinner.
  • Print and cut out a ‘tens’ and ‘ones’ spinner and attach the arrows with a brass brad.
  • Place students into small groups. Provide each group with a ‘tens’ and ‘ones’ spinner and each student with a worksheet.
  • Students spin the ‘tens’ spinner and the ‘ones’ spinner then record the two-digit number they have made onto their worksheet.

Here are some more of our practical two digit place value activities:


3 Digit Place Value Activities

Place Value Castle

Learning about Fairy Tales? Your kids will love creating a Place Value Castle!

Place value castle activity for kids

  • Download, print, and photocopy a class set of the ‘hundreds’, ‘tens’, and ‘ones’ cut-out worksheets.
  • Students then cut out as many ‘hundreds’, ‘tens’, and ‘ones’ as they wish and glue them onto a large sheet of butcher’s paper, creating a castle.
  • When they have finished, ask the students to count the number of ‘hundreds’, tens’, and ‘ones’ they have used to create their castle and record it in the place value table.
  • Students then write the total value of their place value castle and glue the strip onto their construction paper.
  • To make this activity even more fun, provide students with a set of Fairy Tale Posters so they can cut out the illustrations to decorate their castles. Ensure that you print the posters 9 to a page to match the scale of the castle.

QR Code Scavenger Hunt

Place value scavenger hunt

Check out these additional, hands-on three-digit place value games:


4-Digit Place Value Activities

I Have, Who Has? Game – 4 Digit Place Value

This is a whole-class game to build on students’ understanding of place value.

  • Print and cut out the 4-digit place value game cards. Provide each student with a card.
  • The student that has the sentence ‘I am the starter’ begins the game by standing up and reading their card.
  • Once they have read their clue, the student that has the matching number on their card stands up and reads what is on their card.
  • The game continues until the last person reads out ‘I am the winner’.

Race Up the Rounding Ladder Game

This is fun game for students to play in pairs to improve understanding of rounding to 10, 100, or 1,000.

  • Print copies of the Rounding Ladder game board and number cards.
  • In turns, students must round the numbers on the number cards to the nearest 10, 100, or 1,000 (depending on what is decided before commencing the game). If they round the number up, they move up the ladder on their game board. If they round the number down, they move down the ladder.
  • The student who reaches the top of the ladder on their game board first is the winner.
  • More comprehensive instructions on how to play the game are included in the resource.

Here are a few more fun, four-digit place value activities:


5-Digit, 6-Digit, and 7-Digit Place Value Activities

5-Digit Place Value Warm-Up Interactive PowerPoint Game

To activate the interactive functions on this PowerPoint, ensure that you have ‘enabled editing’ and are viewing the PowerPoint as a ‘Slide Show’. Please note that this PowerPoint is a large file and may take extra time to download.

  • As a class, work your way through the 20 problems presented on the 44 slides.
  • Students choose the correct answer from an option of four. When they select the incorrect answer, the PowerPoint will ‘buzz’. When they select the correct answer, the PowerPoint will ‘chime’ and transition to the answer slide.
  • Use the answer slide for student sharing and additional learning opportunities.
  • Implement this interactive PowerPoint as a warm-up prior to lessons, or as a daily review when concluding a lesson.
  • Add new slides and create your own class questions and answers using the editable function in the PowerPoint.

Multiply It or Divide It Board Game

  • This is a board game to play in groups when learning to multiply and divide numbers by 10 and 100.
  • Print the Multiply It or Divide It gameboard and instruction page.
  • Stick the question cards and their associated labels (multiply or divide) together.
  • Students work their way around the board, following the instructions on each square they land on. The winner is the first person to reach the finish square.
  • More comprehensive instructions on how to play the game are included in the resource.

Check out these other five-, six-, and seven-digit place value tasks:


Expand It!

This is an exciting place value game of focus and speed. Quickly tap a light switch to illuminate a digit. Next, encourage your students to expand the corresponding digit to show its value.

When each of the digits has been expanded, record the numbers as an addition statement, working together as a class. For example, 2,000 + 400 + 70 + 6 = 2,476

To create this cool place value game, I used:


Fishing for Place Value

This simple game for teaching place value is one we love to play not just in math centers but also when kids are stuck in indoor recess! You’ll need Base-10 blocks, strong magnets, mounting putty, string, and a fishing “rod” (a ruler will do!)

To create this place value game, attach magnets to the Base-10 blocks. Attach a piece of string to your fishing rod and a strong magnet to the end of the string. You’ve now got “fish” and a rod!

How to Play

  • Turn on a timer, and have students “fish” for as many Base-10 blocks as possible in 1 minute.
  • Ask students to use their knowledge of place value to calculate the total value of their catch!

Ten Add Bowling Active Learning

This hilariously fun game can be carried out in or out of the classroom!

Place value bowling activity for kids

Download the full instructions for the Ten Add Bowling place value game.

Ask your students to bowl the ‘bowling ball’ towards pins that have been labeled with numbers 1–10. Your students will need to add together the numbers of any pins they knock down. The student with the greatest number wins!

As a place value activity for older students, why not ask them to order the pins to create the largest number?


Did you find a perfect place value activity for your classroom? There’s a whole lot of creativity bouncing around the brains of our experienced teachers here at Teach Starter, and they work hard to make sure you can create the most excellent active learning experiences in your classroom.

That said, if you also love a good place value worksheet, we’ve got plenty to print for students to take home for homework or work on in the classroom!

Explore dozens of place value activities designed by teachers and easy to implement in your classroom!

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