Tips for Teaching Place Value in Second Grade

You either love it or you hate it. Or maybe you just have a love/hate relationship with it. No, I’m not talking about the new curriculum that your district just adopted, even though you may share similar feelings. I’m simply talking about a math concept. Have you guessed it yet? Let me give you a hint. If you’ve taught this concept once, you’ve probably taught it all year long. Oh yes, that’s it…place value! There are two things you should know about place value in a second grade classroom: you’re either going to be teaching it all year long or you’re going to be teaching it all year long. Yes, you read that correctly. It sounds a little silly, but let me explain.

Place value is a concept that can seem a little confusing to students. Between when to group numbers, decompose numbers, values of digits.. it can become overwhelming. Ok, let’s go back to the teaching it all year long. To help students out of their confusion, you’re either going to teach place value and do a cyclical/spiral review to keep it fresh or you’re going to be re-teaching the concept later in the year. Place value builds in each grade level so it’s important that students truly understand the concept. Here are some way to help students master place value concepts:

1. Make sure students can skip count by 10s and 100s

Skip counting is an important number sense skill and most definitely a prerequisite skill for place value when counting groups of numbers. This can easily be incorporated into a daily routine or morning work.

2. Teach students the true meaning of place value

I know this is a no-brainer but hear me out. A good definition goes a long way. Teach students the difference between the PLACE and the VALUE. Create an anchor chart with definitions and examples of both and leave it up for the duration of the year for them to reflect on.

3. Use “groupable” tools

Start off with tools that can physically be grouped into a set of ten, then tens that can be bundled into hundreds that aren’t so abstract. Practice with things like straws or popsicle sticks. To make it a little more fun, use small Legos or food items.

4. Use place value mats to bundle, exchange, and repeat

After choosing groupable tools, start placing them on a place value mat and exchanging them out for other values. Choose a place value mat that has ones, tens, and hundreds. For example, after students bundle ten ones, trade it out for a ten and move it to the tens place. After creating ten tens, trade it out for a hundred and move it to the hundreds place. Students need a lot of practice with this as this knowledge transfers into regrouping numbers in addition and subtraction. This is a great time to associate the number of tens/hundreds with the value and how they correlate (see tip #5). Students also need to practice decomposing those numbers or breaking that ten back into ten ones.

5. Constantly associate and connect the “how many?” with the value

If you’ve ever asked a student “how many hundreds are there?” and they reply with 700 instead of 7, then you feel my pain. Make sure to associate the “how many?” with the value CONSTANTLY. Ask students questions like “How many tens are there? What’s the value? How many hundreds are there? What’s the value?”

6. Connect to money

Connecting place value to money gives a great real-life connection and a simple answer to the question “why do we have to know this?” The money system really brings place value to life and it makes learning fun. Students think money is fun to play with, even when it’s fake.

7. Do a number-of-the-day routine

Take the first 5-10 minutes out of your morning or math block to incorporate a number-of-the-day. Take this time to model how to compose and decompose a number into place value parts, naming how many tens or hundreds and the values they represent. Model bundling the number and moving it to the next place on the mat. The every day modeling and repetition will give big results!

8. Practice, practice, practice

Now that you’ve taught all of the basics, it’s time to practice, practice, practice. Practice so much that you never want to practice again! Practice for a few weeks after in centers, review time, or morning work/bins. Below are some great resources that you can use for implementation of these skills.

2nd Grade Place Value Hundreds Tens Ones

2nd Grade Place Value Digital Mini Lesson

2nd Grade Place Value Task Cards

So click download and print and check off those lesson plans. Oh, and don’t forget a trip to the craft store to buy some groupable tools. Enjoy teaching place value! You’re going to be here awhile. 😊

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