Teaching place value for decimal numbers can be a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s dive into decimal place value and break it down, so that you enjoy teaching this concept and your students leave feeling confident in their new skills.
What is place value for decimal numbers and why is it important to teach it to kids?
Place value is the concept of understanding the relative position and value of a digit in a number. It’s important that kids understand place value because it helps them with all other math concepts.
Students spend years learning about whole number place value, but making the jump to decimal place value can be a big one because it requires students to understand that you can have less than one whole. Place value for decimals also introduces new ways to both read and understand numbers.
But decimal place value supports concepts like fractions, money, percents, and more. It is a critical skill that can help students connect multiple math concepts.
Tips for Teaching Place Value for Decimal Numbers
So how do we teach this important skill? Here are some tips for teaching place value for decimal numbers:
Start with what they already know.
Review whole number place value. Some students may really need this review while others may be ready to jump right into decimal place value. No matter where they are, start with what they know so that you can build on it. Help them see that decimal place value is building upon whole number place value.
This video from Math Antics is a great introduction to place value for decimal numbers. He starts with whole number place value and moves into decimal numbers.
Make the connections to money.
Most students have been working with money since they were in kindergarten. The idea of dollar bills and coins is not new to them. Build your students’ confidence and show them that they have already been working with decimal numbers. Use money to show them how we use decimal place value in the real world.
Again, start with whole numbers. Talk about how ten $1 bills are equivalent to one $10. Then ask your students how many pennies they need to make $1. I bet they will immediately know the answer! What a perfect way to jump into explaining the tenths and hundredths place value.
Use base 10 blocks and 100’s charts.
Time to dust off those old “primary” manipulatives. Using base 10 blocks is another great way to build off your students’ prior knowledge and experiences.
Before you dive into working with decimal place value on paper, build numbers with your base 10 blocks. When using base 10 blocks, a flat is worth one whole, a rod is worth one tenth, and a cube is worth one hundredth.
Model what a decimal number would look like with place value. Model how ten cubes can be traded for one rod because ten-hundredths are the same as one-tenth. Then allow your students time to practice building numbers.
If you want to continue that concept on paper (or if you don’t have base 10 blocks) you can use 100’s charts (blank). Each individual square on that chart equals one hundredth. So a full row, or 10 colored squares, would equal one-tenth add a fully colored 100 charts would equal 1.
If you shrink down the 100’s chart you can put multiple on one page and start to build some larger numbers. Using base 10 blocks and 100’s charts are a great hands-on way to use tools students are already familiar with to explore place value for decimal numbers.
I am a firm believer in allowing a lot of varied practice when working with a new skill. You never know what creates that “ah-ha” moment for each student, so don’t shy away from using a variety of these techniques.
Fun Ways to Practice Place Value for Decimal Numbers
Ok, so we’ve covered some tips for teaching decimal place value, now let’s talk about engaging opportunities for your students to practice these new skills.
Color by Numbers
Color by number activities aren’t just for little kids! These activities are great because they provide traditional practice with the added engagement of a coloring mystery!
These color by number activities are standard-specific, so you are able to target the specific skill you are working on. These no-prep, self-checking worksheets align with 5th grade place value standards and can easily be plugged into your math centers, morning work, small groups, independent practice, or used for early finishers.
The best part! Each standard-specific activity includes 3 differentiated versions. These color by number activities allow you to provide meaningful and engaging, standards-based practice for each of your students, no matter where they are in their skill development. Check out all the place value color by number activities here.
Math City Math Projects
Math City math projects are one of the most engaging ways to practice place value skills!
Have you ever been asked… “Will I ever use this math in the real world?”. Math City is your answer! These activities provide your students with real-world applications of math skills.
Grab this free Math City project to see a real-world application of decimal numbers in action.
The Math City Bank project specifically practices decimal place value skills. This project allows students to see how place value for decimal numbers is used when working with money (a connection, you’ve already helped them make). Use this highly engaging math project in your math workshop, for a partner or small group work, and more.
This math project also includes a differentiated version, so you are able to add more support for students that need it.
Take a look at Math City Bank here.
The best part? The Math City Bank project is part of a larger Math City project that your students can work on all year long! Math City projects cover all 5th-grade math standards and are a great way to provide your students with meaningful, standards-based practice of real-world math skills.
Check out 5th grade Math City here!
We’ve just scratched the surface of teaching and practicing place value for decimal numbers. Teaching decimal place value can be fun and engaging when you provide your students with varied practice opportunities and real-world applications! Give these activities a try in your classroom to see how it works for your students.