Place Value Ideas Third Graders Love and Learn From

Place value activities third graders love and learn from

As I get ready to teach my place value unit, I want to share some of my favorite place value ideas and activities I like to incorporate into my unit. 

One of my favorite parts of math instruction is providing students time to practice their math skills outside of our math textbook. I love using hands-on or unique ways for students to practice and apply math concepts. I find this helps improve engagement, allows students to connect to materials, and helps improve their overall math understanding. 

Place Value Ideas 

Many of these activities will work great for math centers or you can also use them with the whole class. If students are completing the activities independently, make sure that the directions are clear and that students have had time to practice each activity before completing these activities on their own.

1. Student Created Book: How Big is A Thousand 

How Big is 1,000 shows created pages to make a book that shows different combinations to make 1,000 of something as an example of place values ideas for students
Example pages that shows 10 gardens of 100 vegetables to make 1,000.

General Gist: Make a class book in which students or groups of students draw 1,000 of something grouped into 10 groups of 100 or 100 groups of 10. You can also have students complete this activity digitally which saves time, too! (Hello, copy and paste!)

Materials: Paper and coloring materials for each student, base ten blocks, (optional) book binding machine, (optional) How Much is A Million? By David M. Schwartz 

I like to start  by reading the book How Much is A Million? by Schwartz. After that we discuss just how big numbers can be. I  ask my students if they think 1,000 is a large number or not. We take a look at base ten blocks and imagine the 1,000 little cubes needed to create 1,000. Then, we discuss in depth how 1,000 can be made with 1,000 ones, 100 tens, or 10 hundreds. From there, we work on creating examples of 1,000 individually or in pairs. Students will decide something they want to draw to show 1,000. We discuss that it is important that students select simple drawings so that they can finish their page.

Some examples include: 10 trees with 100 apples (red dots) on each tree, 100 groups of 10 balloons, 10 cupcakes with 100 sprinkles on each. As you can imagine, these drawings can take a little bit of time to create. I suggest having students work in pairs or groups to complete their 1,000 items.

Why I love this activity: This place value idea helps my students conceptualize how big 1,000 actually is. Students love seeing the one thousand examples that other groups create. I like to bind each of the pages together into a book that stays on my bookshelf. Over the years, I have grown quite a collection and students enjoy looking through previous class books to see even more 1,000 examples.

2. Largest or smallest number with number tiles

Create the largest or smallest number possible one digit at a time. Shown: numbers being placed on a place value chart.
Using number erasers (or anything that has digits 0-9, students add a number at a time to create the largest or smallest number possible.

General Gist: Students work in pairs to see who can make the biggest or the smallest number by arranging their numbers. 

Materials: Manipulative Numbers 0-9 for each student (In the past I have used bottle caps with the digits 0-9 written on the cap and this year I found number erasers, but anything with digits 0-9 work!), paper bag, place value chart

In order to play, students (or the teacher) determine if the smallest or largest number will win. Students should lay their place value chart in front of them. They will alternate pulling a number tile from a bag one at a time. Once the number is selected, students put it in any open place on their place value chart to lock that number in. After a number has been placed, it cannot be moved later on. Students continue picking a number and locking it in on the chart until all the digits have been filled in. After both partners have completed their number, they compare the numbers to see who has the greatest or smallest number.

Why I love this activity: Students quickly develop strategies related to place value with this activity. This helps solidify their place value understanding. After a few rounds, ask students to discuss their strategy with their peers.

3. Building with Base Ten Blocks

Build a place value tower. Shown the number 237 with base ten blocks that equal 237 built into a tower.
Let students explore how many different ways the can create 237. What is the tallest tower they can create with 237?

General Gist: Students build towers using base ten blocks that equal a certain number. 

Materials: Enough base Ten Blocks for each participating student,

(optional) Teacher created number notecards

The teacher or student pairs determine a number, typically between 100 and 999. When setting this up as a center, I have prewritten numbers on note cards that students can select.  Using base ten blocks that equal the given number, students work to create the tallest tower that can stand for at least 10 seconds. 

Why I love this activity: This activity allows students to play with regrouping.  For instance, students might be able to make a taller tower for the number 305 if they regrouped a hundred into 10 tens. When working with the whole class, I like to wait for students to discover this on their own and then lead a discussion about it. It is great for students to start regrouping now while playing with the numbers so that it happens more naturally during future addition and subtraction units. 

4. Place Value Vocabulary Word Work

Place value word work is a great to help students master place value vocabulary. Shown: 2 worksheets with place value activities.
Grab this place value set here

General Gist: Students complete different word work activities that relate to place value vocabulary. 

Materials: Vocabulary words (you can use the glossary of your math book or vocabulary cards), Word Work Activities, paper, markers or pencils 

I noticed that sometimes students get confused not because of concepts, but because of misunderstanding a vocabulary word. For this reason, I wanted to give my students lots of practice with the vocabulary. Over the years, I have  collected word work activities that could be adapted to work for any words. I started pulling some of these activities and using them to connect to our math vocabulary when I noticed that students were struggling to understand and use all the vocabulary words. Now, I have a set of math word work activities with the most common place value vocabulary words. 

Some of my favorite math word work activities include: drawing pictures, breaking words into syllables, putting words in alphabetical order, grouping words in a way that makes sense, and thinking about words associated with each vocabulary word. 

Why I love this activity: The more students are exposed to math vocabulary, the more likely they are to use the words themselves. It also helps students master the words. These quick word work activities help keep students engaged. I have used them during math centers, but I have included them in literacy centers, too! 

5. Magazine Math with Place Value 

Use Magazines to look for numbers to use with place value. Shown: place value scavenger hunt page with a weekly news magazine for kids.
Grab this FREE magazine math for place value to use during guided math. It’s a great way to connect ELA and math.

 General Gist: Students will use weekly news magazines to practice place value skills.

Materials: Weekly news magazine like Time for Kids or Scholastic News, News Magazine Place Value Scavenger Hunt (Get it for FREE here!)

Students select one of the stories from a weekly news magazine. As they read the article, the scavenger hunt page encourages them to pay close attention to the numbers within the text andhink about how each number is being used. They will need to find 3-5 numbers from the news article. Using those numbers, they will answer some place value questions. 

Why I love this activity: Students are more engaged reading the articles when also participating in a math scavenger hunt. Students are engaged with real world news and can connect this to math skills in a different format. I also love that students are able to practice their reading comprehension skills, place value skills, and often social studies or science ideas depending on the articles at the same time! These cross-curricular connections are what help students understand material and allow them to be more fluid in their understanding.

I would love to hear about some of your favorite place value ideas from the list above. Leave a comment about your favorite or tell me other place value ideas that should be added to the list. Love this list? Be sure to check out some of my favorite multiplication ideas, too!

Make every teaching moment count,

Signature that says, "Love, Julie from Llama with Class"

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