Hands On Place Value Activities for Building Strong Number Sense Skills

Number sense is one of the most important concepts we teach as primary teachers.  Understanding place value is an important part of building a strong number sense.  These are skills our students will use for the rest of their lives.  As a primary teacher using a hands-on approach to teaching place value is imperative because it helps our students see, touch, and manipulate otherwise abstract concepts.  

These hands-on place value activities will help your students build strong number sense skills they can use throughout their lives.

Hands On Place Value Activities

The Place Value Box

Building opportunities for my students to work on place value using manipulatives is something I do on a daily basis.  We work with numbers every day using our place value boxes.

Store your hundreds manipulatives in boxes like these when asking your students to complete hands on place value activities.

Each place value box is created using a plastic food storage box that has compartments.  You can use one with 2 or 3 compartments but just make sure the largest area is big enough for a 100-block.  Inside each student gets a hundred blocks, 9 ten rods, and 9 one's cubes.  You can adjust the number of hundreds blocks if you work with higher numbers.  

While I have been able to set up a box for each student, I know that this might not be possible.  Please know that all of these hands-on activities can also be done on a smaller scale during math centers.  Adjust this activity to meet the unique needs of your classroom! Once the boxes are created you are ready to give your students lots of hands-on place value learning.

Number Mats for Place Value Practice

Using different number mat activities, students have opportunities to work with numbers, compare numbers, order numbers, and more.  I have some number mats that we use all throughout the year for plenty of hands-on practice.  The best part about the mats is that by changing out the numbers, you can have an activity that allows each student to work at their level.  

Base ten mats like these are the perfect way to get your students excited about practicing number sense skills with hands on place value practice.

This Base Ten mat is the perfect place to start.  Students can draw a number card or you can provide a number that the whole class works on together.  Students will use the base ten blocks from their box to build the number.  When we do this as a class it is really easy to walk around and monitor as students are working.  In just a couple of minutes, I can get a very good idea of who is struggling with this concept.

After students have worked with individual numbers, then we start working on comparing numbers.  This skill requires that students already have some understanding of the numbers.  Since we are using a hands-on approach, students can begin learning about comparing numbers by building the numbers and then comparing.  

It is great to not only have students build the numbers, but also to walk them through the thinking skills of comparing numbers.  It is important for us as teachers to model our thinking at the beginning, and then give students plenty of opportunities to explain their thinking too.

Building numbers and comparing them using hands on activities like this will help students build on their number sense knowledge.

Finally, after learning the concept of comparing 2 numbers, we begin working with multiple numbers and ordering them.  This progression of activities helps students build their knowledge and understanding of numbers and how they relate to each other.  That is number sense!

Daily Number Sense Practice

In addition to our daily hands-on practice, we also develop our number sense each day with our Daily Math pages.

On each Daily Math page, students work with the target number in a variety of ways. Students can use the manipulatives from the place value box to help them complete the page if needed.  Over the years, I've found that adding this extra step of daily place value practice pages is a great way to bring the lesson full circle. Taking what students have practiced in a hands-on activity and transferring that skill to a written activity helps student bridge the gap to the abstract concepts of math.

Daily math practice is essential and fun with hands on place value activities your students can complete every day.

You can find all of the daily math pages AND the number mat activities in my Daily Math sets.  This bundle covers numbers from 1 - 120 in a monthly progression that builds on the skills of the prior month.  The bundle will provide you with a full school year of daily math practice and number mat activities.  

Hands on place value activities for first grade

If you are looking for higher numbers, then check out the 2nd Grade Place Value & Number Sense Bundle that helps students work on numbers to 1,000.  The same great hands-on and daily place value activities just a little more advanced.

Second Grade place value activities for numbers to 1,000

Place Value Games

Kids love games, so incorporating games into their math centers is another great way to practice the skills they have been learning.  These fall-themed number games are a great way to get students working with numbers at the beginning of the school year.

Students love a spin-and-build game where they race a partner to see who can spin to 20 first.  After spinning, students will add the right number of pumpkins to their board.  When they reach 10, they will practice exchanging the ones for a ten.  Not only is this great place value practice but it sets the stage for addition principles too.  

Place value games are a fun way to get your students excited about hands on place value learning.

Another favorite is the pumpkin counting game where students take their knowledge of place value and connect it to ten frames in order to determine the number. Finally, students will find and cover the number on the pumpkin. What looks like a simple number game, actually has students using and connecting multiple number recognition skills.  

You can find all of these fall-themed math games (and more too!) in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.

fall themed number games for kindergarten and first grade

The Place Value Progression

There are many ways to get students working with place value. I always start with hands-on activities and using base ten blocks is a key component of that.  We then work to make the connection to written examples of numbers like ten frames, tally marks, and number lines.  Each is a step towards mastering number sense.

Following up with fun, themed games are a great way to tie your place value activities together and truly cement these number sense principles. Using this variety and progression of activities is my favorite way to ensure continued growth in place value skillset! Find all of these and many more place-value activities in my store on TPT.

Hands on place value activities like these games are the perfect way to help young students build a solid number sense foundation.

Place Value Freebies

Grab these exciting place value FREEBIES to use in your classroom today. Your students will love putting together the 2-digit and 3-digit picture puzzles! 

Use the FREE 1st-grade math task cards in centers or as a partner activity! They're great for practicing place value with tens and ones! These self-checking cards have images of numbers using base ten blocks, ten frames, and groups of bananas. 

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Pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back to these hands-on place-value activities when you are ready for them.

Help your students master important place value skills with a variety of hands-on place value activities.  This blog post is filled with fun, practical ideas you can use in your classroom today!

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