Place Value Activities for Special Education Classrooms

Understanding how to teach the place value of numbers is a vital part to learning mathematical operations. It is how we compare numbers, line numbers up vertically, make sense of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – and is the foundation for understanding borrowing or regrouping.

place value blog post
place value blog post

While this skill is critical because it’s laying a foundation for our number system, it can also be a difficult task for some children, especially our students with learning disabilities. These students have to shift from counting one by one, which is a skill they have practiced for a while now, to now understanding that “one” can represent “one ten,” “one hundred,” “one thousand,” etc.  

So how do you work on intentionally teaching strategies that will help support your learners as they learn about place value? Let’s look at some options.

4 Place Value Skills to Teach to Students

Hundreds Chart Puzzles image
Hundreds Chart Puzzles are great for practicing place value skills in math centers, morning tubs, or a quick task in the morning. Find them here.

Skip Counting

In order to really be able to count and identify base ten blocks, students need to be able to count by tens and ones, as well as be able to switch between the two.  Before you start teaching your students place value, make sure you teach them to skip count by tens to at least 100.  A good way to do this is incorporating it into your morning routine or the beginning of your whole group math instruction. 

Check out this digital resource to practice skip counting with your students.

Stop and Start Counting

Once your students are pretty solid in their skip counting skills, you can introduce stop and start counting.  This helps them practice flipping back and forth from counting by tens to counting by ones.  Have them start counting by tens (10, 20, 30, 40..) then tell them to stop there and start counting by 1’s from that number, and continue this on to 100. 

Place Value counters
Sometimes the best lessons don’t include colored ink, lamination, or velcro.

Introduce Place Value Blocks Slowly

In the beginning, limit your teaching to just tens and ones.  This skill needs to be solidified before moving on to larger numbers so as not to confuse your students.  You will want to teach your students place value using base ten blocks.  This helps these abstract numbers look and feel more concrete to your learners.  The base ten blocks help them understand that ten objects can also be looked at as one group of ten.  Once your students have this down, you can have them practice using mixed groups of tens and ones to create and identify double-digit numbers.  Once they seem to understand how to group ones to make tens, you can move on to hundreds and so forth.  

Matching numbers free AWB in the resource library
This free place value matching numbers adapted work binder® workpage can be found in the Resource Library here.

Teach About Exchanges

This part of place value teaching is easily overlooked.  Teaching exchanges will later prepare students for regrouping in addition and subtraction.  To teach an exchange is to show a student that when you have 13 ones cubes, it is the same as having 1 ten and 3 ones by having them change out 10 of the ones cubes for 1 tens stick, increasing through the double digit numbers as you go.  Once that is mastered, you can take this skill and transfer it to being able to change 10 tens sticks for a 100 block.  When you get to multiple digit addition and subtraction with regrouping, you can refer back to this skill, or even pull out your tens sticks, for a reference and a visual support.  

Screenshot 2023 05 10 at 10.54.50 AM

There are plenty of games and resources that you can use to work on reinforcing your students’ knowledge of place value, but by clicking here, you can receive my free place value task box resource to help your students identify different numbers in different places.

Here are some other resources for place value:

What are some of your favorite games or activities to play in class to teach, practice and reinforce your students’ knowledge of place value?  We’d love to hear in the comments below!

Don’t forget to grab your Place Value freebie here.




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