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Place Value Picnic: Digits and Their Place in a Number

Grade Level: 2-5

Duration: 60-90 minutes

Common Core Standards

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.NBT.A.1: Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones.

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.1.NBT.B.2: Understand that the two digits of a two-digit number represent amounts of tens and ones.

  • CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.2.NBT.A.1: Understand that the three digits of a three-digit number represent amounts of hundreds, tens, and ones.


Students will understand the concept of place value and be able to identify and represent the value of digits in a number. They will use hands-on activities and games to reinforce their place value understanding.


  • Place value charts

  • Whiteboard and markers

  • Index cards

  • Small paper plates

  • Small objects (beans, buttons, etc.)

  • Picnic blanket or large sheet

  • Pencils and paper

Introduction (15 minutes)

Discuss: Begin your lesson with a brief discussion about numbers. Introduce the term "place value" and explain that each digit in a number has a specific place that determines its value. 

Do: Use examples to illustrate the concept, such as 52, where 5 is in the tens place and represents 50.

Activity 1: Place Value Charts (15 minutes)

Do: Provide each student with a place value chart. Discuss the columns (ones, tens, hundreds, etc.) and how each represents a different place value. Demonstrate how to write a number on the chart, emphasizing placing digits in their correct columns. Allow students to practice writing numbers on their charts independently or in pairs.

Activity 2: Place Value Index Cards (15 minutes)

Do: Distribute index cards to each student. On the cards, have them write a number (e.g., 487) and then break it down by writing the value of each digit. For example, 487, the card would have "400 + 80 + 7". Swap cards with a partner and have them use their place value charts to verify if the breakdown is correct. 

Say: Reinforce the understanding of the relationship between digits and their place value.

Activity 3: Picnic Blanket Place Value (20 minutes)

Do: Create a "picnic" area in the classroom with a blanket or large sheet. Place small objects (beans, buttons, etc.) on the blanket. Each object represents a unit. Have students form numbers using the objects. 

Example: For instance, if there are four groups of ten beans and three loose beans, this would represent the number 43. Encourage students to physically move the objects around to build different numbers and discuss the value of each digit.

Activity 4: Place Value Games (15 minutes)

Do: Divide the class into small groups and provide each group with dice. Have each student take turns rolling the dice and placing the rolled number in one of the place value columns on their chart. The goal is to build the largest (or smallest) number by strategically placing the digits. 

Say: Explain how the game reinforces place value understanding and introduces a competitive element, making learning more engaging.

Conclusion and Assessment (10 minutes)

Discuss: Wrap up the lesson with a class discussion about the importance of place value in understanding numbers. 

Ask: Invite students to share their experiences with the activities and what they found most helpful. Use this time to clarify any misconceptions. 

As a formative assessment, give students a set of numbers to represent on their place value charts independently. Circulate the room to observe and provide feedback.


For homework or as an extension activity, provide additional numbers for students to decompose independently. Encourage them to create their own place value problems for a family member or classmate to solve. This not only reinforces the lesson but also promotes critical thinking and application of knowledge.


  • For younger students, focus on ones and tens places. Use smaller numbers and simplify the language when discussing place value.

  • For older students, introduce larger numbers and extend the activity by incorporating thousands and beyond.

  • Provide extra support or challenge by adjusting the complexity of the numbers used in the activities.

Assessment Rubric

  • Advanced: The student demonstrates a deep understanding of place value, accurately representing and explaining complex numbers.

  • Proficient: The student accurately represents and explains place value for various numbers.

  • Basic: The student demonstrates a basic understanding of place value but may struggle with more complex numbers.

  • Below Basic: The student struggles to accurately represent and explain place value, showing limited understanding.

By incorporating hands-on activities, collaborative learning, and games, this lesson engages students of various grade levels in understanding place values. Through these interactive experiences, students will grasp the theoretical aspects of place value and develop practical skills in manipulating and representing numbers.

Written by Brooke Lektorich
Education World Contributor
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