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Overlooking the Value of Place Value

The last 9 weeks of school is always my favorite part of the school year because standardized testing is over and most of the curriculum has been taught. This is my time for reviewing concepts that were not mastered and maybe finding a different way to teach a particular skill or concept.

I have been teaching my current 1st grade class for about 2 months. When I started in December they had been without a teacher for almost 2 months and were missing many math skills. I did not have time to teach them all the skills that they had missed so I decided to create number of the day worksheets for their morning work to help me teach the skills that they had not been taught. At first my students struggled with the place value part of the worksheet because they had not mastered place value concepts.The teacher before me had taught the students use base ten blocks which was OK, but I wanted to introduce my students to number disks for the sole purpose of connecting place value to counting money. I thought this might confuse the students but it didn’t because they already had been introduced to place place value, so they had a basic understanding of place value.
I taught the students how to count pennies, dimes, and nickels but not combinations of coins because they were already struggling with number their number sense. After completing a couple of the worksheet they began to get use to idea of creating the number of the day using the place value chart. I noticed that they would always make mistakes when trying to create the number using money. In my mind it should have been easy because all you had to do it look at the place value chart, the dimes are the tens and the pennies are the ones. Making the connection to the place value chart was not that plain and simple to them.  One morning I did a 5 minutes mini-lesson on how to look at the place value chart to create their money combinations. A few days later as I was walking around the room passing out the breakfast cards one of my students said, ” Look Ms. Williams I don’t have to look at the chart anymore because I’m getting the hang of it.”

Teachers often miss the opportunity to connect one concept to another because we sometimes tend to focus on teaching the skill without using the best teaching strategy that will give us a best percentage of mastery . When I was a TAP Master Teacher there was an indicator under Teacher Content Knowledge that read: the teacher sometimes highlight keys concepts and ideas, and uses them as bases to connect other powerful ideas. Connecting hard to teach base ten concepts to place value is a very powerful teaching strategy which can increase mastery of 2 concepts at one time.

The new elementary math standards has placed a large emphasis on understanding the value of ten and place value in the elementary math curriculum. The thinking behind this shift is, if the students understand place value and it’s value then they will also understand more difficult base ten abstract concepts such as decimals.

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