Place Value – Do they really get it?

Place value helps us to think of the same whole number in different ways and this can be helpful.  (Key Understanding #4)

I have created this numeracy blog as one tool to support District Focus goal area #2. The blog will continue for as long as there is interest. Most of you realize that even though achievement of district goals is closely linked to the mandate of my job  . . . my real inspiration is to, in some way, help improve the numeracy success of students in our communities. Lack of numeracy success negatively impacts future life opportunities and participation. In this century, expectations for math literacy are high. Research has found that the single most influencing factor indicating success is mastery of early numeracy and literacy concepts.

Many of you know that I visit every school in the district. One of the activities that I am most often asked to do is work with classes or individuals and to identify areas of misunderstanding and struggle that are hindering  numeracy success and if not alleviated will continue to hinder success during school and adulthood. A key understanding that I always check for is place value fluency.  “Place value helps us to think of the same whole number in different ways and this can be useful.” KU6 FSiM    I check for this understanding with grade two students thru to grade nine students. Struggling math students do not have a rigorous understanding of number and place value.

The understanding of place value begins early when students are still Matchers and begin to see at a glance how many are in a small collection (subitizing). Place value understanding development continues through the Operating Phase and students can partition decimal numbers and fractions in multiple ways. Hundreds of district students know the “Chicken Coop” story and have worked to partition thirteen. (Until a student can partition numbers 1 – 19, they will have a heck of a time trying to learn the math facts.) Still others have heard the story Centipede’s 100 Shoes and have partitioned forty-two or one hundred. When I visit high school classrooms the partitioning activities include Flexible Numbers and Place Invaders.

I have worked with grade six students who can successfully partition 4.23 (four and twenty-three hundredths . . . never, ever, ever, say point) as four plus one tenth and thirteen hundredths or three and twelve tenths and three hundredths. I have also worked with grade eight students who do not believe that fifty-three can be partitioned into forty and thirteen and still maintain its integrity. Partitioning (based upon place value) is necessary if students are going to be able to use personal strategies to add, subtract, multiply and/or divide.

Some resources that will help you better understand place value and its importance to number sense as well as provide resources for instruction are:

First Steps in Math pages 72 – 79, 80 – 85 and corresponding course book activities
(Your SST may have access to these resources.)

Numeracy Nets K-2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Teaching Student-Centered Mathematics K-3, 3-5, 5-8

(Index Place Value and Partitioning)

Math Makes Sense

If you would like to work with myself and colleagues and support your classroom practice and development of Place Value understanding please contact me and we can arrange an after school session. Also watch for the next opportunity to enroll in a First Steps in Mathematics course.


About deniseflick

I am a District Learning Coordinator for School District #20 (Kootenay Columbia). I also teach for the University of British Columbia. I teach the math methods course (EDCP 340) and Aboriginal Education course (EDUC 440) for the UBC West Kootenay Teacher Education Program (WKTEP).
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