Place Value Activities

We always start each year in math with Place Value. I always find that kids at my school have a hard time with place value because they don't have a good number sense. I plan on starting the year with some very basic activities to scaffold their learning.

Here are a few activities I will be doing in my classroom:

1) Marshmallow Towers - To reinforce place values through the hundreds (or whatever place value you choose), each student will get three marshmallows (1 for each place value), three toothpicks, and a handful of fruit loops. After discussing how to read in write numbers through the hundreds in standard and word form, they will practice making numbers on their marshmallows towers. To make them, have the students place all three marshmallows in a row on their flat side. Then, the student will put a toothpick in the top of each marshmallow. Call out a number and have students make it with their fruit loops. My students loved this last year. You can adapt this for whatever place value you are studying, 1'000's, 10,000's, etc...

I used paint to replicate what it should look like. Sorry my fruit loops look so sad!

2) Riddles - This is a great way to review and practice the place values. Example: When rounded by hundreds I will be 500, I am greater than (>) 450, my tens digit is 8 and I can be reached counting by fives but not by tens. What number am I? I always have students determine how many place values there are first and then draw blank spaces for each place value to solve each riddle. You can make up your own on cards and laminate them so kids can just pull them out and do them at their seats.

3) Go! Go! Go! - Divide the class into two teams. Each student is given a digit card (0-9). On the floor are Place Cards (ones through thousands or beyond). I would block on the floor with painters tape. Teacher will call out a number (e.g., 2,369) Students with the correct digit card rush to stand in the proper place to show their number. The team that correctly creates the number first earns a point for the team.

4) Let's Go Shopping - To teach kids to read and write numbers, I do this activity. Offer to buy something from a student for a large amount of money. Write a check to that student. On a projector, look at what a real check looks like. Ask what they notice. Discuss the importance of learning to read and write numbers. Tell them it is now their turn to go shopping. Have cheap items in a "store" for sale. Model check writing again then let them shop!

5) Who's Greater, Who's Least - Put students in partner groups with a deck of playing cards. Students deal the cards out until they are all gone. Students each draw 4 or 5 cards from their deck (it depends on what place value you want to work on). Students use their cards to make the largest or smallest number. You can alternate between rounds.  Whichever student has the largest number will win a point. Game continues until someone reaches 10-15 points. Ace is worth 0 and K is worth 1. Remove all jokers, jacks, and queens from the deck before play starts.

What fun activities do you all use for teaching about place value?


  1. When I do place value for decimals with my third graders I'm always surprise how well they seem to get the concept. I'm unsure of what age group you're working with, but you may want to look at the Everyday Math curriculum/website: I don't know how much you can access without your district choosing that curriculum, but you may want to check it out.
    -Pigtailed Teacher

  2. I love the marshmallow and fruit loops idea. That sound really fun and I bet the kids love it! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thank you for the great place value ideas! My 2nd graders are struggling with the concepts and I love the marshmallow idea! I think they will definitely pay attention with that!


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