When I was an interventionist looking at our schoolwide data, I noticed something in our students’ math data.  The students in third grade that scored lowest in math overall on our benchmark testing (NWEA’s MAP test), also were the lowest scoring in the place value and number sense sub-domain.  We grouped those kids into an intervention group where I worked on a variety of skills trying to strengthen their understanding of numbers.  At the end, they were much stronger with abstract number concepts and improved their overall scores.  Here are some ideas for strategies, games, and other resources you can try with your kids who need a little help manipulating numbers, or for your whole class.Ideas, resources, and games for building place value and number sense skills in grades 2-4.


One of my favorite ways to work on number sense is by doing Number Rounds.  This is a little game I thought of that’s played similarly to Sparkle.  The whole class stands in a circle and I choose a starting number and a rule, e.g. Add 10 starting at 54.  Every time we reach a new hundred, that student has to sit down.  So, the student to the left of me would say 64, then the next student would say 74, then 84, 94, and then the student who said 104 would sit down.  We’d continue playing until there is one person left standing.  The students struggling with this concept get to hear it throughout the game.  Even the students who seem to have a solid foundation struggle a bit trying to add a new “place” mentally.  It can be played with any number of digits and anything can be added (10’s, 100’s, 100’s).  I also thought of playing the game starting with a larger number and working backwards and the first person to go below zero is the winner.  I might try that out this year.  For other ideas for getting kids up and moving in the classroom click here to check out my post on adding movement.

Practice Place Value with Heads Up- 7 Up with a fun, math twist!

This game is a fun twist on Heads up, 7 Up.  First, I chose 7 students to go the front of the room and we played a round of traditional Heads Up, 7 Up.  After that round, whoever was at the front was able to write a number on a dry erase board.  The students in their seats had to answer various questions like:

-How do you say this number?

-What is the number in the thousands place?

-What is the value of the 6?

– What is this number rounded to the nearest hundreds place?

After a few questions, we put the dry erase boards down and played a new round of Heads Up, 7 Up.  Students were really excited if they got to stay up front for both rounds and they knew they were off the hook for answering the “hard” questions.  It was a fun twist on a traditional game all of the kids already know.

build it

Build It is a super simple game where students try to beat their partner by building the larger number.  Head on over to the Ellison blog to see how to play.


Subtracting rulesI use my Football Fever centers in the fall to review place value and help build number sense with my third graders.  With these centers, my kids practice matching standard and expanded form, compare numbers, put numbers from least to greatest, and practice mentally adding and subtracting 10 and multiples of 10.

To see more about the centers and to check out the preview with samples, click the image below.

Football Fever place value centers

I love this partner activity Blair Turner shares. It’s such a simple and straightforward way to have students practice what they know about numbers and place value.


This is a perfect anchor chart for showing the ways to represent a number from Teaching with a Mountain View.  This anchor is also easily adaptable to work on any size number you need.  Mary also shares a TON of other great ideas in this post for working on place value.


Place Value Puzzles are a great way to practice matching standard form, word form, and expanded form. You could also use a 4 puzzle set to add in base 10 representation. Head on over to the Ellison Blog to see how I made these quickly using Ellison dies.


As the weeks go on, we have to continue to build students’ practice to include larger and larger numbers.  I use my Rocking Out with Place Value unit to help me push students’ to working with large numbers and to differentiate for students who may not be ready to do so.

100 columns


Students practice manipulating numbers to 1,000, 10,000, and 100,000.  In the tens columns centers, students practice adding and subtracting 10, 100, or 1,000.


Number Grids

The Rocking Out with Number Puzzles center has students visualizing the number on a hundreds chart and identifying the numbers that would surround it.

Rocking Out with Place Value cover

The Rocking Out with Place Value unit features 3 different activities all tiered to 3 levels of numbers giving you 9 different centers options.  To check it out on TpT, click the image above or here.


I love introducing rounding using the Rounding Roadway idea from Blair Turner.
When I did it last year this way, my students really understood it and what we were talking about instead of just a silly rule.  Click the image above to head to her blog to read more about it.
Expanded Form, Standard Form, Word Form Task cards

These Expanded Form, Standard Form, & Word Form task cards are designed to be a Write (or Solve) the Room, however, they can be used in any way you choose.  The cards alternate between each form on the cards.  I also offer two different recording sheets for this one: one that is completely blank, and one that has the given card pre-filled out on the sheet.  This set of task cards is FREE so head on over to my TpT store to download it!

Expanded Form write the room image

I’m gathering online resources to help teach place value and to build number sense skills and I’ll be sharing that soon as well!