Place Value Teaching Tens and Ones

Place value Teaching Tens and Ones is usually one of the first place value lessons you teach in kindergarten and first grade to introduce place value, so I love to make it a fun one! And what is more fun than ice cream to learn base 10 blocks, tens and ones, expanded form, and number words?? 

Place value ice cream cones center is such a fun lesson for teaching tens and ones, base 10 blocks, expanded form, and number words all in one consolidated activity! Great for first grade and kindergarten math time

For this lesson, you give students 4-5 cones with a number on them and then they build their ice cream cones by adding the matching scoops. You can easily make it harder or easier by which scoops you choose for them to build with and how many. You could do simply 1 scoop per cone to learn number words, 2 scoops to learn tens and ones and base 10, 3 scoops to add in expanded form, or any combination!

Ice cream place value game that is so cute and fun for first grade or kindergarten math

The first full set for this center is teen numbers only (numbers under 20) so they can first practice in a super easy way. I would also recommend only doing 2 scoops at first (base 10 and tens/ones) and doing only teen numbers. Then the next week, do the same center (or small group activity or however you use this) but with any 2 digit number under 50. You can also mix the 2 sets to make a 3rd review center.


What I love most about this place value lesson is how easily you can differentiate so all of your students can get practice at their level and feel successful, while all doing the same activity. The amount of numbers you practice at a time, the number of scoops you choose, and which ones, are all ways to level this center up or down to meet the needs of each of your kids. The recording sheets come in 2, 3, and 4 scoop options to make this super easy.

Place value base 10 blocks, tens and ones, and expanded form is made so easy with these fun math ice cream puzzles

They also have an example to follow, with the first scoop done for them, so the kids can be self directed and know what a completed ice cream is supposed to look like :) I put all 4 scoops for this picture example to show all the possibilities, but if you were using this green recording sheet with 3 scoops, you’d only have them be matching 3 scoops per cone, so I’d take out the number words option, for example, for each number if I was using this sheet.

Also another fun tip is to print the recording sheet on color paper like this! Slip it in a sheet protector and let them write their answers on it using a dry erase marker for extra fun! If it’s just a center and you don’t care about them turning work in, that’s an easy way to make this more engaging.


How to teach place value tens and ones lessons in a fun way

 As you can see, the scoop options for each number cone are:

* Number words (twenty-five)

* Base 10 blocks to represent the number

* Tens and Ones (2 tens 5 ones)

* Expanded form (20 + 5)


Tens and ones worksheets games and centers for kids to play to learn place value

But the recording sheets (which are optional) are also differentiated so they can show their answers with 2 scoops, 3 scoops, or 4 scoops. What I love, too, is you can reuse this center to teach each part. So you could do it with the cones and only tens and ones. Then later do it with tens and ones AND base 10. Then later add in expanded form and just keep adding a scoop :) Or do 2 at a time but a different 2 scoop types each time.


My favorite way to use these is to use the cones and the number words only (1 scoop per cone) in the beginning of the year - for simple number words practice and to teach them HOW to do the activity. Then later, when teaching place value, do 3 scoops of base 10, tens and ones, and expanded form. (For kids who struggle, remove the expanded form at first and add it later.) But all of the ways to differentiate make it a perfect (and fun!) activity that all of your kids can feel successful practicing place value skills with. Making sure they LOVE math time is actually more important than them getting the skills right away. If they keep loving math, they’ll keep working to learn the skills so math should always feel fun and like an exciting puzzle to solve whenever possible.


Speaking of puzzles, you know I love puzzles! These puzzles are another super easy and fun way to practice tens and ones.

Place value puzzles to learn tens and ones and base ten blocks representations of 2 digit numbers for lots of great math practice!

Have kids simply match the number to the base 10 blocks representation and how many tens and ones it has. Super simple but effective practice! Just like with the ice cream cones, I have a teen numbers only version of the center. This is perfect to do first with your lower groups, or just first in general, or if you’re teaching kindergarten and only doing teen numbers. :)

Teen numbers place value practice with games and worksheets

Another thing you can do (as seen above) is have the kids build the numbers with blocks. If you don’t have place value blocks, math cubes work perfect! There’s a link to the exact ones I use in the right sidebar of this page if you need some. You’re going to have kids who learn by building, just like you have visual learners, or kids who learn by listening, or kids who learn by writing, so you want to try to provide something for all of them to help ALL of your kids get it in the way that makes the most sense to them.


You can do this for any place value activity, including the ice cream cones. Just have them build the number in blocks (have ten blocks already formed with 10 cubes linked and they stay that way) next to it. Even while completing a simple place value worksheet, they can build their numbers/answers next to it. Letting them manipulate blocks helps them deepen their understanding, and also helps fidgety kids channel their energy in a way that’s connected to the lesson.

Teen numbers practice with tens and ones, place value blocks, and expanded form to learn ways to make numbers

Another way some kids love to learn is by coloring. Coloring is a hugely impactful learning tool when used educationally!


Place value coloring worksheets to write tens and ones in fun easy way

For this simple worksheet activity, let them use markers or crayons (I prefer skinny markers for this) to color in the base 10 blocks to represent the number then write how many tens and ones the number has. This is an excellent way to get in tens and ones practice in a very visual and kinesthetic way.


This particular worksheet is from the Groups of Ten section of my big Place Value Math Unit (that all of these activities I am showing are included in), but I have these worksheets in a lot of levels and options for tons of place value practice. The versions inside the unit, where it looks like this but is only 1 number per page, were so popular that I kept getting requests to make them for more numbers. So I made a separate pack of all numbers 1-120 so you could do 1 page a day as an easy Number of the Day morning work activity to do a little place value practice with a new random number each day. It’s a fun little warm up to get in a little base 10 blocks and tens and ones practice each day :)



Speaking of Base 10 blocks, these simple little center cards are my favorite way to introduce and practice base ten.

Place value blocks activities to learn numbers in fun ways

You can never get enough place value blocks practice so why not make it colorful? :) For this center, you cut out these cards and mix them up and lay them out. Kids simply pick a card, figure out the number the blocks represent (and build it themselves if you want), and then write it on their recording sheet next to the matching center. Boom! So easy.

Place value games and centers for first grade or kindergarten

All of the centers, games, and activities in my math units come with student friendly directions like this so they’re so easy to pull out and play. They also always come with teacher/homeschooler directions that are more in depth of how to prep and set it up, ways to make it harder/easier, fun ideas, or anything I felt would be helpful.


Another fun game to teach tens and ones is Place Value Roll! They roll the (included) dice to see how many tens blocks it has and how many ones blocks it has.

Fun place value games for math time that kids can play independently, with a partner, or in small groups lessons

What I love most about this activity is it is a sneaky way to consolidate the 2 separate skills of looking at base 10 blocks to know how many tens and ones a number has AND the ability to know what the actual number is. It sets it up in a vertical way where they see how writing how many tens and ones is actually simply writing the number. 4 tens and 2 ones is 42. (This activity is also a great bridge to teaching and learning the value of digits, which I'll write a post about later)


It’s also an easy game for them to play independently over and over but get different numbers so this could stay in your centers buckets for weeks! It's also a great activity to throw in your fast finishers bucket for kids who finish their work early to have another thing to choose from.


One way to make Place Value Roll a fun partner game is to have each partner have their own recording sheet but share dice. They take turns rolling the dice to build a number. Whoever builds a bigger number for that roll/round circles their number. Whoever has the most circles wins! You can put the recording sheets in sheet protectors and give them dry erase markers so they can wipe and play again once they fill all the spots to make it an endless center. Remember when I said what’s better than ice cream? Endless centers.


For assessment, there are tons of worksheets to use in my place value unit, but I also love to use cut and paste worksheets as an informal assessment. They’re the best, in my opinion, because kids can move around their answers and really assess their own understanding too. I love that they're self-checking and kids see glue as permanent so they often take a moment to proofread, which is a valuable skill in itself.


They’re also just great straightforward practice.

Place value tens and ones worksheets for first grade or kindergarten math

As with everything, I differentiate these too :)

Teen numbers worksheets for tens and ones practice

One thing I’ve shown on my blog and on Facebook before is that you can make any cut and paste worksheet into a reusable center by simply using fastener tape so kids can stick the answers on and can pull them off to reset it to be played again. Laminate the papers, put little strips of fastener tape on the sheet and on the answers, and voila - instant "game" for any skill. Scroll to the red Fact Fluency sheets in my Fact Fluency in First Grade blost post if you want to see a picture example.

Tens and ones cut and paste worksheets to make place value fun and engaging

You can also just simply print on color paper to make it more colorful.

Fun place value worksheets to learn tens and ones

It just looks more fun in color, right?

I'm selective about what I print on color paper since it's more expensive but I love to use it occasionaly to spruce up a "boring" skill. 


Anyway, there are so many more activities I could show you for teaching tens and ones during your place value lessons but these are my favorite. I’ll try to write more for the other place value skills (expanded form, groups of ten, value of digits, and all that good stuff!) to show you more ideas & activities from my giant 

Place Value Math Unit

Giant place value math unit filled with worksheets, games, activities, and tips for teaching all the concepts to build number sense

 Everything you have seen in this blog post is from that unit! :) 

If you want to see more of what is inside the unit, I also wrote a big Place Value in First Grade blog post that shows more place value activities and ideas too!


You’re also more than welcome to join my free Facebook group for Teaching Math in First Grade if you want to get more tips and ideas for early elementary math! I LOVE sharing tips, ideas, and activities. It's also a great place to ask questions and learn from each other. Just make sure you answer all 3 questions to get approved to join the group. I also have a First Grade Phonics group and a couple others if you’re interested in phonics too!


One tip I’ve shared in the math group specifically for teaching tens and ones is to WRITE the numbers on a “ten” block and a “one” block. This allows kids to visually see exactly what you’re saying when you say “ten” – it is simply ten “ones” blocks grouped together to make counting faster.

Teacher hack for learning tens and ones - write numbers on place value blocks for an awesome math visual

This will really help your kids see what the tens and ones blocks actually represent, so I highly recommend doing this for a set of blocks. Write 1-10 on 5 "tens" blocks and 1 on 20 "ones" blocks - and have kids use those to build the numbers you're practicing when first practicing. This is especially effective to use during lessons at your small groups table (teacher table) if you have one.


In general, I think it’s helpful to have place value blocks or math cubes out and available any time you’re learning place value, whether it’s a puzzle or a worksheet or a game. It’s nice to provide that support whenever possible.

Place value puzzles are fun first grade math centers to learn numbers

If you want all these fun activities, go grab First Grade Math Unit 9: Place Value then join us on Facebook and let’s make math fun!



For more math posts from me, check out:

Graphing and Data Analysis

Composing Shapes


Building Number Sense

Fact Fluency in First Grade

Telling Time


& more! :) I also write a lot about phonics, literacy, and classroom management so feel free to browse around! 


Thanks so much!