Place Value Maze

Place Value Maze

Place Value is a tremendously important concept. It doesn’t come naturally at first, because kids are initially taught to count things. One car, two cars, three cars, and on and on.

Even counting a lot of things, like 135 jelly beans isn’t too hard. But if you try to jump right into place value and explain that the one in 135 represents one group of 100 things and that the three represents 3 groups of ten things, you’ll have a confused (and possibly upset) child on your hands.

That’s why the right manipulatives are so critical. Go ahead and count 135 jelly beans if you want to, but when you start talking about place value, pull out your base-ten set. If you don’t have one, you’ll find a free set at DIY Math Manipulatives.

Because our entire number system is based on groups of ten, it’s tremendously helpful to work with groups of ten, helping kids build a framework from which to reference. So start by helping your child count at ten ones and then counting the individual units on a ten rod and showing him that they are equivalent — a ten and ten ones are the same thing.

Think of ways to count by ten in daily life (string fruit loops on threads in groups of ten, group toothpicks by tens, place ten dried legumes in each cup of an egg box). Count by tens on your Hundreds Chart. Money is a fun base-ten manipulative and you can count pennies into groups of ten and count them or trade them for dimes.

We then build lots and lots of 2-digit numbers while I show my child how quick and simple and easy and fun counting out 8 tens and 3 ones is, compared to having to count out 83 ones. I make sure my child knows that counting by tens is a shortcut to counting by ones, but that they’re the same thing. Exchanging ones for tens is just regrouping, but I want to make sure my child thoroughly understands that concept visually and kinesthetically before I move on to teaching the concept with pencil and paper.

Then we move on to 3-digit numbers. I show my child how 10 tens is the same thing as a 100 flat. We count up all the ones in a 100-flat-piece. We practice trading 10 tens for 1 hundred. I dump a huge pile of ones in the middle of the table and ask my child if he’d rather count that out or trade it for the equivalent tens and hundreds, and then we practice doing it.

I demonstrate building the numbers with our base-ten set and then we take turns, both of us trying to “stump” the other person. I also have a whole list of suggested games for learning place value.

Because place value is so critical to understand, don’t move on if your child doesn’t understand it forwards and backwards. His understanding of future concepts could be impaired. It might only take a few days or it might take a couple of weeks. These place value games provide plenty of fun games and worksheets to help solidify understanding.

I usually prefer hands-on learning activities to worksheets, but I make an exception for worksheets that are games, like this place value maze.


How to Use this Place Value Maze

These place value mazes are a fun way to point out to your child the way adding 1 in different place values can change a number. It’s not a super difficult concept (though adding 1 to a nine requires regrouping and can be tricky), so as kids work through each place value maze they can make math connections in a fun and enjoyable way.

Have your child start with adding tens to the first place value maze — the one with adding ten to 8,117 at the top. It will seem easy until he hits a nine. Oh, the dreaded nines.

Here’s how I handle the nines. I have our base-ten set ready to go. I find that pre-teaching is less effective than answering questions, so I just let my kiddos get started. When they hit a nine and have a hard time visualizing the regrouping, that’s when I bring out our base-ten blocks.

Your child will hit 8,197 halfway through the maze. Build the number 8,197 using 7 unit blocks, 9 ten rods, 1 hundred base, and 8 thousand cubes.  Hand your child another ten rod and ask him where it goes. Give him a minute to think about it.

He might make the connections and figure it out himself, because the base-ten blocks are such a great tool. But if he needs to be prompted, ask him if he wants to trade you ten rods (tens) for a base (100), then have him write out the number, 8,207 from the base-ten blocks. The subsequent mazes are just more difficult versions of the same thing — differentiated for more advanced place value understanding.

If that first place value maze is easy for your child, just let him progress through the mazes until he has a question. Help him figure it out with the base-ten blocks and try to move on. If the first maze seems difficult, have your child build the first number with the base-ten blocks, and build each number as you progress through the maze, showing your child what it looks like to add a ten rod over and over.

All five of the place value mazes are included in the free printable, just look for the blue button at the very bottom of the post for the download.





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What are your favorite resources for teaching place value? Please share in the comments below!



Don’t forget to grab your free, printable, Place Value maze right here!









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  1. Shelly Abernathy says:

    I filled out the information, but I cannot access the place value maze. It keeps rerouting me to the page to sign up again. It wasn’t emailed to me either. What am I doing wrong to access the maze?

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      Did you check your junk, spam and trash folders? The email should have been automatically sent within a few minutes of you signing up for it. Please let me know if you did not receive it and I’ll try sending it again manually.

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