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Using Number Discs to Teach Place Value

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.

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9 thoughts on “Using Number Discs to Teach Place Value”

    1. If you are referring to the missing labelsthere aren’t any label on the place value chart because the students had to choose the correct place value during the lesson.

  1. Stephanie Reynolds

    The brain rejects what it can’t understand. Yes. Base ten blocks are not something that students can relate to. No. Maybe some. I am a math interventionist and base ten blocks work considerably better for my struggling learner than the disks. I packed the disks away.

    1. Number Discs worked well with my students because they offered my students something familiar. Many teachers that I’ve come in contact with continue to only use base ten blocks even though the students are unsuccessful with them.

      Nothing works with all children. I just have found that my struggling students who were unsuccessful with base ten blocks did better with number discs.

  2. Brian Rasmussen

    Would you still say the same now? I am finding that students do not understand physical money the same as they did a few years ago. I love the place value disks. I am a third year teacher and trying to increase my understanding to reach and teach third graders. Thank you!

    1. I would say that the student challenges now are representative of gaps created due to missing instruction as well as gaps prior to the Pandemic. I still believe that number disks are a better alternative to base ten blocks.

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