5 Engaging Place Value Activities For First Graders

Place value is very essential to understand in the early years of education as not only it is the foundation of most arithmetic concepts, but also vital for making basic decisions in early life. Being as important as a fundamental concept of place value is, it does become difficult to comprehend it at times. 

To make the process of learning place values smooth, some fun activities and games can be incorporated in classrooms or even at home. This will enhance the learning and add a fun element to it. Children tend to learn better when they are engaged in activities that involve them in a manner that is playful, exciting, and not monotonous. 

Here, given ahead, are some activities that can be referred to for learning place values. 

How do activities work for first graders?

Teaching place values to students by incorporating activities is an innovative approach that reinforces the concepts to be taught in an enjoyable manner. Children as young as 1st graders have a very small attention span and do not learn to comply with classroom norms right in the beginning. Learning through activities will keep them engaged and they wouldn’t feel the pressure to conform. By incorporating activities, students would want to participate and have a sense of excitement for the same rather than just attending a class out of obligation. Below are some ways in which place value can add to classroom teaching and strengthen the learned skills.

  • As children in their early childhood are very sensitive to visual and auditory stimulation, activities will create a simulated learning environment through participation, keeping the students engaged and on the same page with what they are grasping. With the help of playful activities, children will not get distracted easily as they would in a normal lesson. 
  • Playing a game or teaching through an enjoyable activity keeps the children motivated for learning. Many times, children in their 1st grade and those of a similar age group find a classroom boring but are obligated to attend it. If a playful activity is added as a learning method, children will have an intrinsic desire to learn and hence would learn better. Correlations between motivation and academic achievement have been found to be highly positive. 
  • They promote creativity as they let the child learn in an independent and experiential manner by breaking the barriers of conventional teaching.

Activities for learning place value in an interesting way

Here are some activities for enhancing the place value skills for children in their early years of learning. These activities are fun and enjoyable and can be administered in classrooms or homes. 

1. Place Value Bingo

 Place Value Bingo

Everyone in the classroom could make 3×3 bingo cards involving two-digit numbers. Children could be asked to make their own bingos, or the facilitator could prepare them beforehand and distribute them to the children. Once everyone has their bingos, the facilitator can call out number clues randomly such as “ any number with 5 in the ones place” or “any number with no tens.” The first child to cross out the full bingo can call out numbers next. 

This activity will help children identify which number represents which value according to its place. It is a quite simple activity and can be administered to children who have just been introduced to the concept. A healthy competitive environment will be created and the children will be super attentive, eagerly waiting to cross out the numbers on their bingos. 

2. It’s Your Birthday!

It’s Your Birthday!

In this activity, children can be divided into pairs of two. The idea is to have them interact with their partners and find out their birth date. They could just focus on the day and the month and leave the year. Once they know the birthdate of their partners, children can be asked to make the number with base blocks. 

For example, If a child’s birth date is 31/7, they could represent  3 as tens with base-10 blocks and one base 1 block. For representing month, 7, the child could use base-1 blocks and place 7 blocks next to the 31. The facilitator must check and appreciate the child’s work. 

This activity will make a clear visual idea in the children’s minds about how a digit represents tens and ones. It would also facilitate classroom and peer interaction. 

3. Flash Cards 

For administering this, the teacher could prepare flash cards with random two-digit numbers. The children could be divided into groups and be given a bunch of flash cards. Then, they could be instructed on how to do the activity. Turn by turn, one person in each group could hold the flash card in a manner that the number is not visible to the person holding it. They could hold it by showing the front to the group and back to themselves. 

Now, the children in the group have to loudly say the number in the form of the value they are representing. For example, if the flash card says 39, they have to say 3 tens and 9 ones. After that, the child to whom the flash card is not visible will guess the number in ten seconds, here, by saying thirty-nine loudly and quickly. 

This can be a very fun activity and can reinforce the concept of tens and ones very well. It will make the children learn in an automatic manner without them even realizing that they are being taught. 

4. Stack Place Value Cheerio towers

Stack Place Value Cheerio towers

In this activity, the children would require clay, uncooked spaghetti, and some cheerios. The idea is to embed the 2 spaghettis in a piece of clay to make it look like an abacus stick. Now, Ask the children to label the one on the right as tens and the other on the left as ones. Make a bowl of chits with different, random two-digit numbers and let the children pick. Whatever number the children pick, they have to represent it on their clay-spaghetti abacus by stacking cheerios on them. 

For example, the number is 57. The child is supposed to stack 5 cheerios on the spaghetti that represents tens and 7 on the one that represents ones. This can be repeated a few times. 

Children will learn how to break a number into tens and ones and it would enhance their skills of understanding and identifying the place values represented by various digits in a number. 

5. Figure out the Place Value of your Name

In this activity, the children will use base blocks of tens and ones to spell their names. Provide the children with base 10 blocks and base 1 block. Now, ask them to try and spell their name with the blocks. For example, ALEX can be spelled starting with 2 bases 10 blocks forming the A, and the one block in the middle joining the two triangular sides. 

Demonstrate the activity to the children by using your own name. Once the children have spelled out their name, ask them to count up the numbers of tens and ones blocks to determine the place value of their name. In the given example it could be A= 2 tens and 3 ones that is 23. 

In this activity, the children will be able to think in a slightly critical manner and it will help them strengthen their concept of place value further from just numbers. 

Place value: A far-reaching concept?

Place value, as discussed earlier, is a fundamentally essential concept. It is vital that all children learn early in their educational journeys because not only does it serve as a foundation for mathematical problems, but it is also something that is required to lead a normal life independently. It moves further from the classroom and has its own underlying applications in the real world. 

It is required to pay bills and understand weight, time, distance, dates, and most general aspects of life. Without understanding place values, it would be difficult to make the most common decisions in everyday life, such as waking up at a particular time, planning an event for a day in the future, or even paying for a bar of chocolate.  


Place value is a key concept that every child should learn in their initial years of learning. It is needed for the arithmetics they will learn in their educational years. More than that, it is a concept that will be required at some point or the other to understand various, general and common life aspects on a daily basis. 

In their early years, children do find it tough to grasp the concept and get familiar with it. The activities based on place value concepts can make this task easier and more enjoyable for children. Activities that are used for the purpose of learning create stimulation, motivation, and prime creativity in the learning environment. They also help retention for a longer time and in a more concrete manner as the mode of learning is stress-free and engaging. Place value is not just an academic concept. It goes beyond that and is vital for children to grasp and apply in various life situations as well.

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