5 Ideas for Teaching Place Value in 3rd Grade

5 Ideas for Teaching Place Value in 3rd Grade

Place Value 3rd Grade

I have 5 ideas for teaching place value in 3rd grade!

Place value is often mostly review in 3rd grade, as students are building off the initial concept that they started learning in their beginning years of elementary school.

At my school, place value was one of the first concepts that we would teach in the beginning of the year.

I have some lesson ideas that you could incorporate into your math block if you’re on the search for something new!

You probably have a boatload of place value ideas, but it’s always fun finding something new to switch up your usual routine. 

Keep reading to learn about engaging place value lesson ideas!

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Place Value 3rd Grade

Idea #1: plate with manipulatives

You can either use separated plates (Target has these for cheap, or you can use paper separated plates!), or you could just use a basic paper plate with 3 lines drawn on it separating out each section!

Make each section is a holder for a specific kind of base ten blocks (one section is 100s, one section is 10s, and one section is 1s).

There are lots of ways to use these separated plates!

Make this a center where students write down a number on a whiteboard, then make the number using base ten blocks.

Make it a whole group activity.

Hand out a plate to each student (or put kids into partners if you don’t have enough plates). Write a number on the board, and see how fast that kids can make it with their plate and base ten blocks!

Hands-on learning is always SO MUCH more fun!

Place Value 3rd Grade

Idea #2: Base Ten WAR

This place value game helps to reinforce the idea of digits creating various sets of numbers, and that the value of a digit changes depending on its placement in the number..

This place value game works best with two players!

Using index cards, write down a couple of sets of digits 0-9.

Students will shuffle cards, then put the set in between both players.

The first player draws two cards. The second player draws two cards.

Let’s say that Player A draws a 7 and a 2. They will be putting these digits together to make a number.

Player A can make either a 72 or a 27. They want to pick the higher number. They’ll put 72 down.

Player B draws a 3 and a 1. Player B can make either a 13 or 31. 31 is the higher number. They’ll put 31 down.

72 is more than 31, so Player A takes the cards.

The winner is whoever has the most cards at the end (like a normal war game!).

Once students learn how to play, this is a super easy center to use in math at any time of the year!

Place Value 3rd Grade

Idea #3: be HUMAN base ten blocks

This one is super fun and great for kids who love movement in their learning.

Tell students that instead of using base ten blocks to build numbers – they are going to BE the base ten blocks!

First, have a stack of papers that have 1,000, 100, 10, and 1.

Only make one paper with 1,000 on them. A few more with 100. More with 10, and the most with 1.

Hand a piece of paper out randomly to each student.

Write a number on the board.

Students will have to line up and make the number.

For example, if you write down the number 1,239 on the board, then you need one student with 1,000, 2 students with 100, 3 students with 10, and 9 students with 1.

You can shuffle the cards and pass them out several times so that students can have a chance to be a different place value!

Place Value 3rd Grade

Idea #4: Place Value Color By Number Worksheets

Make your place value practice extra fun with place value color by number worksheets!

These place value color by numbers come with 10 in a set (plus an answer key, of course!)

This place value worksheet set covers topics like digits, writing numbers, standard/expanded/written form, and base ten blocks.

As students correctly answer place value questions, they are directed on what color to color each part of a picture.

These are a blast. – they are both engaging and motivating.

Your students will actually ask for more of these (I’m serious!).

You can find them at Glitter in Third on TPT.

Click HERE to check them out!

Egyptian place value math

Idea #5: Egyptian math

This is a great extension activity!

It is also a fabulous activity to do with your highest or gifted learners in guided math, or to introduce the idea that digits are symbols that have value.

So, our base-ten system that we use is from the Arabic number system.

This Arabic number system has digits 0-9, which can then be used to make any number (for example, 7,324 is made from 4 digits).

However, the Egyptian number system was a little bit different than the Arabic number system (although both are base ten systems).

Instead of having digits 0-9 to create all numbers, the Egyptian number system had unique symbols for 1, 10, 100, 1,000, etc.

You can see all the symbols on this website.

Now, if you’re thinking “what does this have to do with teaching place value?”


It helps kids make connections that digits are simply symbols that are put together to form a number. 

To make this into a math lesson, first print out the symbols from the website.

Write a number down on a whiteboard.

See if students can write down the numbers using Egyptian hieroglyphics!

Once students get the hang of this, switch it around!

Write down an Egyptian number, and see if students can figure out what the number is!

Again, this is a great extension activity to get students thinking in a new way and realizing that number systems often look different, yet serve the same purpose: to create numbers.

Place Value interactive notebook

Looking for more info on place value?

I have lots of place value products available at Glitter in Third on TPT in case you want a digital or paper product.

Click the links below to check each out!

free multiplication worksheets


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