Thursday, August 7, 2014

Place Value in First Grade

For a ton of first grade place value activities, resources, and fun ideas - keep scrolling down!
Unless, of course, you want to read about what's been going on with me lately :)

Place Value in first grade ideas galore!

I have been extremely busy the last few weeks...

First of all, Mr. Giraffe and I bought a house!!

We are so excited to finally ditch tiny apartment living and have a house of our own... and also just so excited to be IN the house. Our closing date kept getting pushed back and we actually ended up having to move all of our things into storage without us! It basically went something like, "Hi Mr. Mover dudes, nice to meet you. Please take every single thing I own and put it in some shed I can't see. I'll be fine here.. with my walls."

This is how I TpT'd while our stuff was in storage. I'm super fancy, right?? Talk about a TpT addiction.

So I kind of like to have to organize everything. Check out our color coded moving boxes! Each room in our new house was assigned a different color and the boxes were labeled both on the top and side (paper bent on edge of box) with that color paper so you could see the color even if the boxes were stacked, U or D (upstairs or downstairs for easy reference), and its contents. Then we put that color paper on the door frame so it would be easy to just drop off the box in the right room. I'm not crazy, right? Right?? Whatever, call me crazy, it actually made things waaay easier!

So then moving day came. If you've never moved in Arizona in July, I totally recommend it. Who needs hot yoga when you can carry boxes up stairs in 111 degrees? But that's okay, I'll just take a nice cool shower after that all day move... Nope! The water guy never came to turn it on... for 5 days. No running water for 5 days. FIVE days. Cinco. No big deal, who needs to take showers or flush toilets anyway? It was kind of like camping but without the roasting marshmallows or nature or.. basically any of the good parts haha. Thankfully Mr. Giraffe's parents live nearby so we raided their shower. Again, we've been SUPER fancy lately.

But we LOVE our new house! that it has running water, internet, and cable :) Here's the hubby diving in the new pool. Can you believe I haven't been in it yet??

One of the first things we did was buy the kitties a new cat tower so they could feel more comfy in the house because, you know, the cats are eating imported wild Alaskan salmon during the move while we eat McDonald's. Okay, okay, so we had Sonic but still! As you can see from our baby girl's face, she is not amused (but she isn't ever, her & Grumpy Cat could be BFFs). They love the house now though! Watching them run up stairs for their first time was adorable.

Okay, so anyway, back to teacher-y stuff! I know it's not really the time of year for place value at all but I am way too excited to share some things from my place value unit with you! I started making my First Grade Math Units last year starting at Unit 7 then I made 8, 9, 3, 5, 1, and 2 so I just may go out of order sharing them as well :)

First up for me to blog about iiiiiiis Place Value!

How to Differentiate your place value lessons
Graphics by, Lovin Lit, and KG Fonts
I love math. I know, I know, I'm a nerd but I really do love math! I think it can be really fun if you do it right. One thing that I think is SO important, though, is differentiation with math. Not every kiddo is going to get it that day or even that week so you have to meet them at their level with every worksheet and activity. That's one thing I love about the math units I've been making is they are completely differentiated. All the concepts have 3 levels of worksheets - A, B, and C - so all students can feel successful and learn without frustration - this supports your struggling students, provides practice for your on-level kids, and challenges the ones who typically "get it" right away.

Place value in first grade: expanded form worksheets and a ton of other place value activities and resources So many great ideas for teaching place value!

I recommend assessing the levels of your kids ALL. THE. TIME. to change your groups, the level of worksheets you give them, the level of centers you give them, etc. because some kids will learn certain concepts really fast and other concepts really slow and you need to change your small groups accordingly. One way I do this, if you look at the 2 pictures above, is the bottom of every worksheet has a little self-reflection for students to circle if they thought that worksheet was easy, just right, or hard. Encourage them to really think about it - hard doesn't mean it took a long time, hard means they had to think hard to solve things. When you train your students to truly assess their understanding, it will work wonders!! THEY will know what they need help on and you'll be able to quickly see how they feel about a concept. Pull them back to your teacher table for a little mini-lesson during math centers if they circled "Hard" for a concept. It will help you not miss those little holes in their foundation which will help them (and you!) all year.

My favorite way to learn is with math centers that seem like games! One of my favorite centers in this pack is the Place Value Roll because it can be used over and over again with all different numbers which provides A LOT of practice!

Place value first grade math centers and activities - lots of great ideas on this post

For this center, they roll both the tens dice and the ones dice to make a number. They write how many tens, how many ones, and what number they made. Several different dice are included - they're easy to assemble, just fold and tape/glue :) I recommend printing them on thick paper or even cardstock for durability if you can but I print them on regular printer paper so no worries if you can't! Like I said, you can keep this center for a lot of practice and since there are so many number possibilities, they won't get bored. If you wanted to make this a partner center or to add a challenge, have students work with a partner or in groups and make it a game. Kids take turns rolling and writing their tens/ones/number, whoever has the highest number for that round circles their number and wins that round. Whoever has the most circles when the sheet is filled wins! It's always fun to add a little friendly competition to make it more fun but these are great independent practice as well.

Base 10 Base 10 Base 10! You can never get enough Base 10 practice! This is one of the many activities in the pack that practices base ten. There are also A LOT of worksheets to practice but hands-on centers are my favorite! For this center, kids simply take the cards and write the number the base ten blocks are representing. Simple, easy practice!

A great way to practice Base 10 is to take the actual base 10 blocks and lay them on a 100 or 120 chart. Lay the tens across the rows of ten to show them that the ten really does represent that many. For example, have them build 37 by laying 3 tens across the first 3 rows and 7 ones on each of the numbers and watch their faces light up with understanding when they place the last "one" block on the number 37 on the chart. It makes a fabulous small group activity to build understanding of what base 10 blocks actually mean!

Place value centers and activity ideas galore! Place value puzzles to practice tens and ones and base 10 blocks

I also love puzzles! I create a lot of puzzles because I think they are fantastic, (mostly) self-checking practice! They're fun but really make the kids think. You should always have a recording sheet though! All of my centers always come with teacher directions, student friendly directions, and a recording sheet. You need that accountability plus you want to check to make sure they did it right :) 

Place value expanded form activities like these puzzles and a lot of fun place value ideas

More puzzles! Like I said, I love puzzles!

You know what else I love?? Cut and paste activities for math!! I'm obsessed with having cut and pastes for every math skill. You take a concept that could otherwise be not-so-fun and make it a PARTY when you add a little scissors and glue. It could be 1,000 calculus word problems (is that even a real thing??) but if there are scissors and glue involved, it's like a craft party! :)

How to teach tens and ones and other place value concepts in first grade or kindergarten
How to teach expanded form and other place value concepts in first grade or kindergarten

Even with things as fun as cut and pastes, you should try to differentiate! As you can see the pictures above have smaller numbers while the picture below has bigger numbers. You want all of your students to eventually do all the numbers BUT some kiddos may need to build to get to that point. Give them base 10 blocks to build those teen numbers first with the above sheets so they can SEE and understand what they're saying when they say 18 is 10+8 or that 18 is 1 ten and 8 ones. You want them to get the "why," not just know how to write it. Have them build the numbers as they do the cut and paste to solidify their understanding. 

Hands-on exploration and differentiation are so important and that's why I provide different levels for as much as I can, even cut and pastes and centers.

This pack has 16 different cut and pastes :) Is it weird that I like to do them too?

Okay so this is something that I feel like a lot of teachers neglect when teaching place value so it's an entire concept in the unit: the value of individual units within numbers. They need to understand that the 2 in 24 is actually 20 and the 4 is 4 ones. This is WHAT PLACE VALUE IS and yet it seems to be skipped a lot. It's great they can "read" the base 10 blocks and all but they need to understand what each number within the number stands for. This will help them so much with number sense, especially when they get older. This is a fun cut and paste just to practice the tens and the ones place which is a great place to start with this concept but there are also a lot of worksheets included that identify the value of each digit - so important! Make sure you make that an integral part of your place value unit. Okay okay I'm lecturing now.. sorry guys, I'm hungry. :)

Place value in first grade teaching ideas like how to teach values of digits

Speaking of hungry, how yummy is this Place Value ice cream math station?? Students build ice cream cones for each number by adding the matching scoops. It comes in a lot of different levels so all your kiddos can enjoy the delish learning.

Place value ice cream cones and other great place value centers, activities, and ideas!! Click for more!

Okay, so now for the assessment!

 Assessment is key to differentiating. Of course you're assessing all the time in a lot of different ways but it's always nice to have a formal assessment at the end of a unit to see where everyone is at. I always include 3 versions of the test (same format and question types but different numbers) so you can give a pretest, a midway-through-the-unit test, and a post-test. I think it's good to know what you're working with to start, what they specifically ARE and ARE NOT getting about halfway through so you can focus on those areas for the rest of the unit, and then a post-test to see how well they picked up everything. Test and then use it to build your small groups and guide your instruction. To differentiate, I recommend breaking the students up into small groups of 3-5 to pull during centers based on the specific skill they're lacking. Pull a small group of just the kids who struggled with base ten blocks and work with them on that skill and then pull a group of just the kids who struggled with expanded form and work on that skill. You may have a "high" kid and a "low" kid in the same group - that's okay! You may have a struggling kid that sits in on 3 different skill-focused groups, that's okay too! Differentiation should be flexible. Don't keep your groups the same just because that's *their group* - give them all what they need when they need it. Here's an example of one of the tests:

Place Value assessments

For easy grouping, just circle the entire section on the test if the student missed them and then sort the papers by what sections were circled to easily form your groups! For example, if the student missed 2 out of the 3 problems for 42 = _tens and _ones, circle that section and call them for that small group.

Okay so that's enough pictures!! Like the picture below says, Unit 9 is huge so I obviously can't show you everything but I hope I've helped a little bit and given you some place value ideas! Bust out those base 10 blocks and have some fun!!

If you want my First Grade Math Unit 9, click {HERE} to check it out in my TpT store!
If you like it, check out the other units as well or consider saving a ton by buying the bundle :)

This unit is now also available in SPANISH.

For blog posts about other math units of mine, check out:
Telling Time
Adding 3 Numbers
Building Number Sense
Fact Fluency
Making 10 to Add
Money (also in Canadian, Australian, and U.K. coins)
Composing Shapes

Graphing and Data Analysis

Follow me on Pinterest for more teaching ideas!

Also, don't forget to join Miss Giraffe's Class so you never miss out on fun ideas and exclusive free stuff from me only for subscribers!

Okay so I know, I know, this post is huge already but I just had to take a second to say:

OH em GEE, look at my new blog design!!! It was done by the awesome Designs by Kassie who I totally recommend if you're needing a blog designer! I love creating and design and I'm a total perfectionist so I probably drove her a little crazy with all of my little requests but she put it all together fabulously and I really love it! She is really sweet and super easy to work with. Check out her portfolio and you'll fall in love! I had looked a lot of designers' portfolios and her work is just outstanding. She has a long wait list so don't wait! Despite her long list, I feel like she was prompt, patient, and it all got done really quickly! Thanks Kassie!!

Thanks for reading this looooong post. How do you teach place value in your classroom? I'd love to hear about any tips, tricks, or fun activities!


  1. Congrats on your blog! I'm so happy for you and it is so super adorable! I will be sure to visit often my friend. YAY you!
    Teaching and Much Moore

    1. Thanks so much, Vicky!! As usual, thank you for being so sweet - I am excited to be your blog friend! :)

  2. Hi Miss Giraffe! This unit looks fabulous. Even though I'm no longer teaching first grade this school year I have put it on my wishlist now because I have a feeling some of my kindergarteners will be needing it my the end of Spring Quarter. My school site has a fabulous Transitional Kindergarten teacher and wow did she prepare those kids well for K. They're going to have me digging into first grade content by the end of the year I just know it.

    PS - Your blog looks fabulous ( I will bookmark Designs by Kassie for when I"m ready to make that leap) !

    Kindergarten Corps

  3. Hi Janine! That is AWESOME that you got such high kinders this year! I hope you've been having a good few first weeks of school! Thanks for your compliments - I totally recommend Kassie, she was great to work with!

  4. Hi Miss Giraffe! I LOVE your new cheerful :) i also just started a blog. It looks like you are off to a great start! I love your math unit, off to check it out and pin it. Congrats! Christina

    1. Hi Christina!! Oh my gosh I LOVE your blog too - soo adorable. & I love your button! I just followed your blog on bloglovin' so I can read along :) Thank you so much for pinning my unit! I wish I could pin things onto that board of Cara's you pinned it to - it's an awesome board! Did you ask her to add you? Thanks for your sweet comment too by the way - I'm excited to have a new blog friend :)

  5. You have your own pool? That is quite fancy! Haha! Anyway, congratulations on finally moving in to your own house. It is better than living in an apartment, and not having everything for yourself. That being said, how are things coming along with the house? I hope you’re all settled in by now. Thanks for sharing this post with us, and have a great day!

    Naomi Walters @ Coldwell Banker Chicora Real Estate

    1. Thank you Naomi! It's not fancy when you live in Arizona - most houses have a pool because it is super hot here :)

  6. I just purchased this unit from TPT - love how well made each and every page is! I spend hours perfecting my resources (and I mean hours!) so it is a breath of fresh air finding somebody who is just as fussy! Thanks so much for sharing :) - Laura, Cardiff UK

    1. Thanks so much, Laura! That means a lot to me. I am definitely a perfectionist with my resources. :) I see that you're from the UK - if you ever need anything you get from me converted to UK spelling, please just email me!

  7. I just purchased this unit from TPT - love how well made each and every page is! I spend hours perfecting my resources (and I mean hours!) so it is a breath of fresh air finding somebody who is just as fussy! Thanks so much for sharing :) - Laura, Cardiff UK

  8. Your resources are incredible! I'm saving up to buy your bundles!!

  9. Hello Ms. Giraffe,

    I am interested in purchasing your Differentiating Place Value printables. Please let me know how I can purchase them as soon as possible.


    1. Hi Vicky! The place value unit can be found here:
      Hope you love it!

  10. Hello,

    I just want to say I love your math units. I teach a in a dual language classroom and am so excited to see this unit in Spanish. Do you have any others available in Spanish or that will be available soon?


    1. Hi Erin! Thank you so much! I am working on translating them all to Spanish so keep a look out in my Spanish store ( for them! :)

  11. I bought ALL of your math units and I LOOOOOOVE them! Our district adopted a new math curriculum this year and over the last summer I aligned YOUR math with our new program. I lined up the practice pages and centers/games so that when we got to it, I could easily pull out multi-levels for all students. It has made differentiation SOOOOO easy! THANK YOU for ALL of your work on this math. It is truly AMAZING! (I know, it's a LOT of caps. It's what I do... :) ) Thanks again!