Place Value is a critical, but difficult concept for young children to understand. It takes a lot of practice and is best approached from many different directions — like manipulatives and gamification!
Gamification (the strategy of turning every day learning into games) is especially helpful for math concepts. Who doesn’t love playing games?
The feeling of accomplishment, beating an opponent or improving a previous score keep you voluntarily coming back for more. Gamification can do wonders for engagement. That’s why I use math games to teach Place Value, and Earthquake is a favorite in our homeschool.
What is Place Value and why is it important?
Place value is one of the most incredibly profound math concepts. It is simply the numerical value a digit has by virtue of its position in a number.
As simple as it is, it can be a very challenging concept for young minds to grasp. One minute you’re teaching your child that the symbol 5, the word five and five marshmallows all meant the same thing. And the next minute you’re telling her that 5 in the one’s place means 5, but five in the ten’s place means 50 while 5 in the hundred’s place means 500.
That’s a lot to take in!
Number correspondence is pretty concrete and not too difficult to grasp. But the concept of place value can feel abstract. It’s your job as the educator to present it in a more concrete way, and that’s where this game, Place Value Earthquake, and all of my other Place Value games come in.
The reason the concept of Place Value is so critical is that it’s the foundation of arithmetic, which is the foundation all other math concepts are built on. Kids who don’t understand place value will struggle with every other math concept going forward. They’ll live in the dark place of relying on procedures and algorithms instead of being able to truly understand and apply concepts.
How to Play Place Value Earthquake
You’ll just need a few dice and the free printable worksheet (look for the blue button at the bottom of this post) to play this simple game. I like to use 10-sided dice in a pill organizer, labeled with the place value of each dice, in order to improve understanding.
If you shake a handful of dice and then lay them in order, your child might not see right off that you just created a multi-digit number. Whereas, if all of the dice are lined up in the shaker, with each place value labeled, the number will be more readily apparent.
This game will work either way, with the shaker or without, but I feel like the shaker substantially improves understanding.
I got the idea for the Place Value Shaker from We Are Teachers. They have a printable you can use on your pill organizer, if you’d like. I bought my pill organizer for 88 cents at Walmart. I constructed it a little different because I wanted the place value labels inside the compartment with the dice, so the place values were visible at the same time as the dice.
You can use this game to teach place value up to the millions, since there are 7 compartments in a pill organizer, but that’s enough places for your child to be able to understand the concept of place value and be able to apply it to larger numbers. With young children, I like to start with two or three digit numbers, then work up to larger numbers.
The game boards are pretty self explanatory, and the video below will show you how we play the game.
I hope you like this game as much as we do!
Concepts taught with this game:
- Place value is a positional system based on groupings of ten. The position of each digit in a number determines its value.
- Mental math.
- Adding 1, 10 and 100 to a number, or rolling over each place value.
- Regrouping. Ten ones becomes a ten and ten tens become a hundred.
- Understanding the value of each digit in a multi-digit number, based on its place.
- Understanding the value of the zeros in multi-digit numbers.
- Decomposition of multi-digit numbers in various ways.
- Understanding of rounding numbers to 1, 10 and 100.
Don’t forget to grab your free, printable, Place Value Earthquake game boards!
How do you teach place value? Please share your favorite resources in the comments below!