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Using Number Discs to Teach Place Value

722325e288676d760469d79cb5e54983 With the implementation of the math Common Core Standards there have been a numerous changes in the choice of manipulatives that are used to teach the age old concept, place value.

In second and fourth grades place value is major topic that is taught to students in these grades. Before students reach second grade the foundation is set in 1st grade because students are taught base ten strategies. These base ten strategies differ from the strategies that I taught to my first grade students. These strategies focus on using ten as the the basis for adding and subtracting.

The math Common Core Standard suggest that number disks should be used to replace the base ten blocks that have been traditionally used to teach place value. I agree with this change because when I taught place value I often wondered why my students could not understand place value with the based ten blocks.

After years of using base ten blocks I now realize that based on brain research the mind rejects what it cannot understand and base ten blocks were not something that students could relate to and make sense of the blocks as it relates to place value.

Base ten and place value

Number disks seem to be a better option for teaching place value because they resemble coins and American currency is an example of a base ten system and students can connect what they know to the new concepts that are being taught. Once students learn using number disks they can then apply the base ten concept to adding and subtracting using friendly numbers. Number disks also provide students with a better understanding of expanded form of numbers because expanded form is based on place value.

Many students do not understand expanded form because they do not understand that the value of the digit is either 10 times less than the digit before it or ten times more that the digit after it. These concepts become more clear when teachers use number disks instead of base ten blocks.

Place value is a very important concept for elementary students because base ten is the foundation of our number system.


  1. Hi there! Are you aware of the problem with your representation of the place value chart there?

  2. Paul says:

    this is very helpful thank you

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