Understanding Place Value

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A very important concept your child learns in 1st Grade is place value. Let’s look at the number 13. What does 13 really mean? We can write 13 in a place value chart. Now we see that 13 is 1 ten and 3 ones.

But what does “one ten” really mean? One ten is made up of 10 ones. In place value, a ten is a bundle of 10 ones.

This can be tricky to understand at first, so starting with objects can help. Here are some popsicle sticks. Let’s group them into bundles of ten!

One ten. Two tens or twenty. Three tens or thirty. We have three bundles. Help your child to think of 30 as three tens and 0 ones.

Let’s go back to our number 13. Once we are comfortable with bundles, we use quick tens and quick ones as our simple math drawings. Quick tens are sticks and quick ones are circles. When we take apart 13, we have 1 stick and 3 circles, or 1 ten and 3 ones.

What about 24? What makes up the number 24? Two tens and four ones.

We can draw this as two bundles or two sticks, and four ones. Now you can talk about place value with your child!


Grade 1 Common Core Standards

Number & Operations in Base Ten: Understand place value.

(1.NBT.2) Understanding that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones. Understanding special cases:
a) 10 can be thought of as a bundle of ten ones – called a “ten.”
b) The numbers from 11 to 19 are composed of a ten and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.
c) The numbers 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90 refer to one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine tens (and 0 ones).

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