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Home » Blog » Math » Tools to Teach Place Value
Written by: Mary Kate Bolinder

Blocks, chips, mats, oh my! When it comes to teaching place value to first and second graders, there are so many tools to choose from. But which place value tools are best for your students? Let’s take a closer look at some of the top math manipulatives for place value instruction.

Read on for the best place value tools and why you need them in your classroom!

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Free Anchor Chart

place value anchor chart to teach essential vocabulary words
When teaching students place value, there are a lot of essential vocabulary words that they must know and understand.  This anchor chart is the perfect way to provide your students with a visual guide that will help them learn these vocabulary words.  Try this free place value student anchor chart template.

Our Lucky to Learn Math curriculum features 9 different place value anchor charts to share with your classroom. Explore 120 charts, skip counting, ordering numbers, number forms, even and odd numbers, grouping tens, comparing numbers, and a base 10 anchor chart. You can download the anchor charts and more here!

Unifix Cubes

unifix cubes

One of the most versatile tools in your classroom is the unifix cube. Children as young as preschool can use unifix cubes to help develop number sense. Students can learn that each cube has a value of one. Using a ten frame, have students fill the ten frame with unifix cubes – then have them stack the cubes together. They now have a rod of 10! Continue to practice with unifix cubes: create rods of 10, add one more/one less, count by tens – the possibilities are endless!  

printable unifix cubes
Download printable Unifix cubes.

Base Ten Blocks and Place Value Mats

base ten blocks and place value mats
Download printable base ten blocks and place value mats.

What two math tools go hand-in-hand? Base ten blocks and place value mats! When introducing students to new manipulatives, it is important to give them independent time to explore the materials. What observations do they make? Do they notice any similarities or differences between the cubes (ones), rods (tens), and flats (hundreds)? What happens when ten cubes are stacked together? Does it look like a rod? What happens when you line up ten rods? What does it look like?

Once students have an understanding of the values assigned to each manipulative, you can work together to represent new numbers with these tools. With a concrete understanding of place value, students will have the tools they need to transition to more abstract concepts like regrouping. 

printable base ten blocks
Download printable base ten blocks.

A place value mat helps visual learners organize manipulatives into columns. The Lucky Little Toolkit features three different place value mats, in both print and digital format. This tool can grow with your learners all year! Download a FREE place value practice mat, and be sure to check out this video that shows how to use the mats in your classroom!

printable place value mat

Place Value Discs (or chips)

Want to take a gamble on what inspired these popular math manipulatives? If you wagered on poker chips, you’re right! Place value discs, or chips, are a fun tool to use with students who already have a basic understanding of place value. Each disc is assigned a different color, and each color has an assigned value (ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, etc.). Using a place value mat and manipulating the discs similarly to base ten blocks, students can represent different numbers. Place value chips also have the value written on it in standard form, which helps to reinforce the connection between the numeral and the assigned value. 

place value chips
Download printable place value chips.

Now that you've got all the tools you need, take a look at some of our favorite place value activities!

Materials for Place Value Differentiated Instruction

Need to change up your instruction, or reinforce a previously taught skill? Check out our Lucky to Learn Math Place Value Differentiation Task Cards. Each task card features a skill, game, and activity that can be done with materials you already have in your classroom. Give skip counting cups a try! Write the skip counting pattern on a party cup, flipped upside down. Have students put the cups in order, then build a tower in the correct order.

How to Organize Math Manipulatives

​​It’s no secret that we LOVE math manipulatives! But we DON’T love when our favorite tools get mixed up and unorganized. Who has time to sort through all that mess after a busy day of teaching? We’ve got all the organization tips and storage needs for keeping your math centers and manipulatives looking great.

math manipulative storage trays

No manipulatives? No problem!

We've got tons of printable tools to print and teach a hands-on place value lesson! Click the links below to download.

A few of our favorite place value products

We are saving time by bringing some of our favorite place value finds to YOU!

How fun is this place value answer board? This would be a great tool to supplement small group instruction and games, or quickly check for understanding with the whole class.

place value answer board

We love this cute Polka Dot Pocket Chart. Works for morning meeting, modeling, and whole class instruction!

place value pocket chart

This Place Value Frame with number tiles keeps base ten blocks neatly in place. Students will have fun with this independent practice tool!

place value frame

Students can take these no-prep Place Value Activity Cards to their seats for extra practice. Multiple levels of difficulty included to meet learners at all stages of understanding!

place value activity cards

Rock and ROLL with place value dice.

place value dice

We want to play this Math Stacks Place Value Card Game. Students can play in groups or independently to master place value!

place value math stacks game

Do you have any of these tools in your classroom? Tell us which math manipulatives you love for teaching place value in the comments!


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Hey there!  I’m Angie, owner of Lucky Little Learners. Our #1 goal is to support K-2 teachers.  We provide unlimited access to over 20,000 printables that are aligned to your standards.