Place Value Parade: My Favorite Tactile Number Building Activity

 As any new or veteran teacher can tell you, understanding place value is the foundation of building solid number sense. It is the base of all math understanding.  It is essential and vital to further mathematical understanding. Basically, it is just really really important.

I always enjoy teaching place value and incorporating hands-on activities whenever possible. Recently, I gave one of my ALL-TIME favorite place value tools, Place Value Parade, a much needed update and a colorful makeover. This math number building concept activity is a great way to help your students understand place value in a fun, hands-on way.

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.

Place Value Parade is an interactive hands-on place value chart.  To get started, make copies or print your choice of Place Value Parade charts. I always laminate mine so that kids can write on them with Expo markers.

Have students cut along the dotted line to separate the digit cards from the place value chart. Then, have students cut out all the numbers to create single digit number cards.
Now, you are ready to begin.  It is time to build some numbers.

I like to give my students clues that fill in one digit at a time.  This is a fun way to review math vocabulary, do a little mental math, and turn it into a game.

Here are two examples of a Mystery Number Riddle:

My students 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.

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

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

My students keep their digit cards in a plastic bag and the place value chart in their math notebooks.  We use them for about a week solid and then pull them out about once a week for review.  If numbers go missing, we switch to just using Expo marker on the boards.

Students really enjoy building numbers and writing their own mystery number riddles for others to figure out. This activity works great in tutoring or small groups and is even if fun fast-finisher activity for partners.


Of course, you can do this very same activity on white boards or notebook paper.  I like the tactile model I showed you above and so do my students. Plus, the place value charts come in handy as a regular ol' math tool all year long. It's a great visual for the kids. 


If you are interested in using the place value charts from above, you can grab this activity as one of my stores forever freebies here. There are now 4 different styles of place value charts included in the resource in both color and black and white, giving you a total of 8 option! Enjoy and have fun 

Happy Teaching,

Place Value Parade originally appeared on my blog, The Teaching Thief, 1/27/13

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