January 27, 2013

Place Value Parade and Building Numbers

Can you ever do enough activities to reinforce place value?
 Nope... never.

As any new or veteran teacher can tell you, understanding place value is the foundation of building solid number sense.  Am I right, or am I right? 

Even teaching 4th grade, I have an amazing amount of kids that come to me every year without understanding place value.  And the scary part is, it seems to be getting worse!!  Anyone else?! This lack of fundamental understanding makes everything we do in math class more difficult.  Pile on top of that, the lack of mathematical vocabulary and it's an absolute mess. So, what do I do to combat this mathematical nightmare?  We place a lot of Place Value Parade.

Place Value Parade is very simple and the kids LOVE it.  It helps kids build their math vocabulary, master place value, and improves listening skills.

First, make copies of the Place Value Parade sheet on card stock.  You can choose to laminate if you want, but I find it works just as well on thick paper. 
Have students cut the paper in half to separate the numbers from the place value frame. Then, have students cut out all the numbers.  (Teacher Tip: Remind them to put their initials on the back of each number so that lost digits can be returned.)

Now, you are ready to begin.  It is time to build numbers.  Give them clues that fill in one digit at a time.

Try these clues below to build your own number. Ready, set, go...

Mystery Number 1:
  1. The digit in the tens place is double the number 4. 
  2. The digit in the ten thousands place is half of 10. 
  3. There are no hundreds.
  4. The digit in the millions place is the difference between the digit in the tens and the digit in the ten thousands.
  5. The digit in the ones place is 3 times more than 2.
  6. The digit in the thousands place is greater than 8.
  7. The last digit you need is the sum of the millions and the hundreds.
 Did you build 3,359,086?

Mystery Number 2:
  1. The digit in the millions place is a product of 3 and 2.
  2. The digit in the ones place is half the digit in the millions place.
  3. The digit in the thousands place is the sum of the digits you have used.
  4. The digit is in the hundreds place is five.
  5. The digit in the hundred thousands place is the difference between the hundreds and the thousands.
  6. The digit in the tens place is the sum of the ones and the hundred thousands place.
  7. The digit in the ten thousands place is the only odd digit you have not used yet.
Did you build 6,419,573?

After building the number, we then read the number together.  Write it in expanded or word form.  Discuss the value of each digit. Etc.

My kids think it is great fun to listen to the clues and figure out the mystery number.  We check each digit before reading the number aloud and you will hear the whole class go "Yesss!!" after we call each digit. They are so proud.

Your clues can be anything from simple to very complex.  Use as much math vocabulary as possible. (greater than, less than, sum, difference, double, half, more than, less than, even, odd, product, quotient, etc.)

I started pretty easy, but soon found out that I could get quite complicated.  The best part is that my students are no longer stumped when they see some of these math words on tests.

My students keep their digit cards in a plastic bag and the place value frame in their math folder.  We used them for a week solid and now pull them out about once a week.  The kids still love building numbers and are ready to start writing clues for their own mystery numbers.

Of course, you can do this very same activity on white boards or notebook paper.  I like the tactile model I showed you above, but it's completely up to you. If you would like a copy of my Place Value Parade, click here or on the image below to download it FREE from my TN store.



  1. We teach 4th grade and we see the same thing with place value (I was groaning the word yeeeeeeeeesssssss as I read your post). We spent MONTHS having to go over this with them at the beginning of the year. I used to teach 3rd grade and these 4th graders came in as if they were coming into 3rd! Craziness!

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! I'm so excited to try it (provided they REMEMBER what I taught them)! ;O)

    I'm so excited to have found your blog! I've been on the lookout for more 4th grade blogs!! It always feels so nice to connect on the same grade level!
    Collaboration Cuties

  2. Great ideas!! Thank you for sharing!! I am glad I found your blog!
    Kathy O.
    ThirdGrade Doodles

  3. This is a great idea! Love it! Just found your blog!

    Eclectic Educating

  4. I LOVE this! Thank you so much for sharing. I am your newest follower :)
    The Techie Teacher

  5. I'm not a teacher - I'm just a dad to a 1st grader and a 3rd grader and I happen to like math - but I agree that place value is a critical skill to reinforce. Nothing like practice to reinforce that mental muscle memory. I have some place value stuff on my 3rd grade page that some parents might find useful... at http://numbersheets.com/grade-levels/third-grade/

  6. Hi Amanda, I absolutely love your blog design! It's super cute. Anyways, thanks for the freebie. I will definitely use it! Thanks again!
    Doodling Around in 6th Grade

  7. I wanted to THANK YOU for your blog title, as it reminds us that we, teachers, are always sharing and rethinking ideas. I love it when people share their ideas to really share... not just to take credit for some ideas that have been around for ages with a little tweaking! (of course there are some non-thought-of ideas out there, too) This is what teaching and collaboration is ALL about - sharing ideas, resources, making changes where needed - ALL in an effort to create what is best for YOUR students. Thank you!

    ~ Kimberlee ~
    Teacher TimeSavers

  8. Oh!! I love love love this idea! Thank you so much for sharing. I am pinning it right now so I can remember it for next year.

    Think, Wonder, & Teach


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