How to Teach Place Value

By Jasmine

Decimal Street, Decimals, maths, Maths Games, Place Value

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Learning place value is important as it is one of the fundamentals of maths.  As with any new concept, it may be difficult for your students to grasp. The idea that numbers can be deconstructed and reassembled may be challenging at first. The Math-U-See program can help make teaching this concept much easier - with the use of hands-on, multisensory methods. 

Are your student struggling to understand place value? It doesn't need to be a hard topic to teach (although many parents and teachers alike struggle with this topic!)

Here's some of our favourite activities to add some fun to your maths lesson, whether you're teaching at home or in the classroom.

Why use "blocks" and hands-on manipulatives?

The Math-U-See Integer Block Kit is recommended for each activity because the blocks are not only colour-coded for each number (helping students with number recall and recognition) but are also indented so students can "touch" and "feel" each number correspondingly. These Integer Blocks are used from Primary to Grade 12 maths throughout the Math-U-See program and are great for students of all ages and learning abilities (especially those with dyslexia and dyscalculia). 

These Integer Blocks are also research-proven to work and combined with step-by-step instructions throughout each level, they are used to teach basic addition and place value all the way through to advanced algebra. 

Activities for Learning Place Value

Here's a few easy activities to work with your student to teach Place Value. There's also a free ebook download at the end of the blog post with 100 Maths Activities that you can use to teach maths in a fun and engaging way. 

Think of these activities as "recipes" for teaching Place Value. In the same way a chef takes times to add each ingredient carefully and make sure what he's cooking tastes good, you'll be working alongside your student, helping where needed, and making sure they master this topic before moving on.

1. Assemble a Number with Proper Place Value placement

Materials needed:


This exercise requires 9 unit blocks, 9 ten-blocks, and 9 hundred-blocks.

Note: Reference your student’s current understanding of place value to determine whether to review all numbers (single, double, or triple digit) in one activity or separately.

  • Ask your student to place a mystery amount of unit blocks (0-9), ten-blocks (0-9), and hundred-blocks (0-9) on the Decimal Street™ poster.
  • Once the number is built, have your student write the number on the paper and then say it.
  • Verify the answer is correct and record the number on a sheet of paper.
  • After five numbers have been built, review the record of the numbers that were built and discuss the following:
  • Did your student create more single-, double-, or triple-digit numbers?
  • Which number is the greatest number or the least number?
  • Underline a digit in one of the numbers and then ask your student to tell you the value it represents. (ex., in the number 65 the six represents 60 or six tens.)

2. Shuffling Digits with Playing Cards

Materials needed:


Shuffle each set of cards and place them in three separate stacks facing down.

  • Have your student select one card from the blue stack and the green stack to create a number. For example, he may draw a green 4 and a blue 5 to create the number 54.
  • Have your student build the number with the Integer Blocks and say the number.
  • Next, you select a card from any of the three stacks.
  • If you select a blue or green card, replace the current digit of the same place value with the new card.
  • If you choose a card from the red stack (for example, 7), place that card to the left of the 5 to create the number 754.
  • Have your student build the new number with the Integer Blocks and say the number.
  • Play continues with you and your student exchanging digits to create new numbers to build and say.

3. Number Recall

Materials needed:

  • Math-U-See Integer Blocks
  • Decimal Street™ poster (this is included in the Integer Block Kit)
  • Dry erase board, marker, and eraser


Sit with your student back-to back, so that you can see the dry erase board and your student cannot. Your student needs to have access to the Integer Blocks and the Decimal Street™ poster.

  • Write a number on the dry erase board that contains up to 3 digits.
  • Read the number aloud to your student.
  • Your student builds the number that he has heard with the Integer Blocks.
  • Next, compare his model with the number on the board and verify it is correct.
  • Switch roles periodically so that your student has the opportunity to be the reader and builder.

4. Re-design a Number

This activity reinforces the concept of zero place holders. Zero is an important number for students to learn when teaching Place Value. If you had $50.00, without the zeros holding the place value, you might have only $5 or 5 cents. 

Materials needed:

  • Math-U-See Integer blocks
  • Decimal Street™ poster (this is included in the Integer Block Kit)
  • Dry erase board, marker, and eraser
  • Paper and pencil


  • Write a two-digit number on the dry erase board (for example, 63). Ask your student to build, write, and say the number on the Decimal Street™ poster.
  • Next, tell your student she is going to remodel the number. The new number will always have a zero in it. For example, you might ask her to remodel the number to become 603.
  •  Have your student build, write, and say the new number (603).
  • Discuss how the number changed and how it remained the same. For the given example, the digit 6 moved to the hundreds place, and the 3 remained in the units place and the zero shows that there are no tens. The number still contains the numerals 6 and 3.
  • This activity can be adapted to begin with a 3-digit number. For example, begin with 287 and ask your student to remodel it so it is 280.

These activities are simple to incorporate into your next maths lesson. See what your student likes and how they respond. Do they pick up place value better with a hands-on experience? Many kids do!

Here's a free download you might enjoy. It's a list of our favourite 100 Maths Activities that you can do outside the classroom:

We've put all 100 Maths Activity Ideas into a handy PDF!

Want to download a copy?

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Let us know which activities worked for you - and which ones your kids loved most in the comments

Have fun learning!

The Team at Maths Australia

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