Using Place Value Blocks to Build Number Sense

The abstract quality of math makes hands-on learning an absolute must in the primary grades. And there's really no better hands-on tool than place value blocks when it comes to learning about place value and number sense. Today let's chat all about how we use place value blocks to build number sense in first grade. 

Using place value blocks to build number sense is a great hands on way to get your students excited about practicing place value.

The Benefit of Using Hands-On Math Tools 

In the first-grade classroom, students are just beginning to learn all about how numbers are composed. This is a very abstract concept for young learners, so using hands-on manipulatives is essential for deeper understanding. When children are allowed to build numbers using place value blocks, it helps them to visualize groups of numbers and equations to strengthen their overall number sense. When students can physically represent each number, they can better understand more complex number sense concepts. 

Aside from these key motivators to use number sense blocks, I've also found they really help to boost engagement. Students LOVE using tactile materials and anytime we pull out the place value blocks, I can count on snagging their attention. Ready to get started? Here's a list of my must-have tools for building number sense and how to use them! 

My Favorite Number Sense Tools

First off, let's talk about the best hands-on math tools for young learners! If you're in the market for some number sense manipulatives, I highly recommend investing in a set of place value blocks. You can get place value blocks made in different colors and materials. I personally love plastic blocks because they are super durable. We use them so much and I want them to withstand that repeated use. But you can also find foam place value blocks too. 

place value blocks are a great hands-on tool for developing number sense
If your teaching area has a magnetic board or some sort, these 3D magnetic place value blocks are a great way to model in a way that all students can see. I love the 3D aspect of these because it is very easy for students to connect these with the blocks they use.  

Magnetic place value blocks are a great teaching tool to model.

In my classroom, I made students their own boxes with a set of place value blocks, but if you aren't able to do this then use them in your math centers. Students will still get the benefit of working with the base ten blocks regularly! I also love this place value blocks mat that I found on Amazon.  Just add some number cards and you have a fun, hands-on number-building center activity without a lot of fuss.

Using a place value mat like this makes learning feel more like a game for your students.

Introducing Place Value Blocks

Once you've got your tools, it's time to start working with them in the classroom! I have found it best to introduce place value blocks at the same time I introduce the place value chart. We always start with ones and as we put a number into the chart we count out ones blocks to match.  This combination of seeing the number, seeing it in the place value chart, and counting out the blocks helps students to start to build a concrete understanding of what each number represents.

Introduce place value blocks at the same time you introduce the place value chart to help your students gain a deeper understanding of place value.

Each time we move up to a new level on the place value chart, we make the hands-on connection between the blocks. I like to stack up the smaller blocks to show students that they are the same size as the new block we are using.  Lining up 10 ones blocks next to a 10 rod or ten 10 rods next to a hundred block is a great way to illustrate this.

Using Place Value Blocks as a Tool

From the beginning, I teach my students that place value blocks are tools to help them understand math and solve problems. We use place value blocks on a regular basis as each student has their own place value box and they know they can use it any time they need or want. 

Make learning place value fun and easy with game like place value block activities like these.

The great thing about place value blocks is that students can continue to use them as they work with bigger numbers.  So while we start with ones and tens, it is not too long before we start working with bigger numbers. As children move on to working with larger numbers, the place value blocks serve as the perfect way to continue illustrating how the number can be decomposed.

Daily Place Value and Number Sense Practice

In first grade, we work with numbers every day. Strong number sense is a foundational skill that will be used by students for years and years to come.  To help support this skill we rely on daily math number sense activities as a big part of our daily math routine.

Each day we have a target number, highlighted on our number sense practice pages. The first thing we do is build that number using place value blocks. Then we use those blocks to help us answer the other questions. On each daily math page we work on place value, comparing numbers, ordering numbers, 1 more / 1 less, and 10 more / 10 less.  By consistently working on these skills every day, students build a solid understanding that leads to mastery

Use daily place value activities like these to help get in important number skills practice every day.

Some students use the blocks faithfully to complete the activities, while others naturally wean themselves off the blocks as their number sense continues to develop. Aside from the daily practice pages, the daily math pack also includes some fun place value games that my students love to play during math centers. I find that using a blend of the daily practice pages and the center games and activities is a great way to help children build number sense skills.

The game like feel of activities like this will keep your students engaged while learning place value.

If you're looking for a way to include more number sense activities in your routine, you can find these daily math place value sheets and activities in my store on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I have bundled together the entire year in one set (or you can find each month individually).

Getting the children into a routine of working with place value blocks and practice pages every day is a wonderful way to help strengthen number sense in your classroom.

Grab these place value and number sense activities to use in your classroom today!

More Fun Place Value Activities

Using place value blocks to build number sense is one of my favorite activities, but using place value blocks isn't the only way we work with numbers. I love to fill our math centers with lots of engaging activities that get students working with numbers. Making lessons and centers engaging for students is my favorite way to capture their interest. After all, if they think they are playing and don't even realize they are sharpening those number sense skills, center time can feel like a breeze!

Place value puzzles like these are perfect for centers or independent practice.

One of the ways I do this is with math puzzles during center time. My students love puzzles and when I can use that to help them hone their number skills I am happy to do that.  These fun puzzles have students matching a place value representation with the number.  As they match the numbers they also build the puzzle.  What is great about these puzzles is that they are also self-correcting. Students can easily see if they have correctly matched the number on their own, making these the perfect center activity. See all of the place value puzzles available.

If you'd like to try these out in your classroom, you can grab one of these place value puzzles for free!  Download the freebie and give it a try during math centers in your classroom to boost engagement and help students fine-tune their number sense skills.

Grab this Place Value Puzzles FREEBIE to use in your classroom today!

Another great way to capture student interest when working with place value is by using poke cards. Poke cards are fun, self-checking cards students can do independently.  On these cards, students will look at the place value representation and match the number.  Students "poke" the correct answer by putting something (a pencil or pipe cleaner works well) through the correct answer.  Students can then turn the card over and see if they were correct.

Poke cards like these are perfect for centers and are a great way for students to self check their answers.

These make for another great center option due to the self-correcting nature of the cards. My students love the hands-on element of poking a pencil through the card, so these always snag their attention with ease. You can give poke cards a try in your classroom too! These cute monkeys are ready to give your students some practice with tens and ones.  Try these free place value poke cards!

Grab these Tens and Ones Place Value FREEBIES to use in your classroom today!

Pin these Place Value Activities!

Pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so you can come back the next time you need place value and number sense ideas.

Help your students build number sense with fun place value activities they will love. Using place value blocks to build number sense will help give your students a more concrete understanding of place value. From daily place value practice to hands on activities, your students will love learning about place value. #thechocolateteacher #usingplacevalueblocks #placealueblocks #numbersenseactivities

Post a Comment