The two first graders I just started working with are having trouble understanding place value. On their weekly review sheet they have questions that prompts them to draw a certain amount of tens and ones (for example: draw two tens and nine ones so they draw two longs to represent two tens and then they draw nine dots to represent nine ones). After both students completed this correctly I soon discovered that they did not know what two tens and nine ones meant. If I gave them the number 10 they were unable to draw one ten and zero ones as they did correctly on their review sheet.

This week I tried out a place value game with dice instead of prompting them with different numbers . The student would role the dice and whatever number they rolled that is what number of digi-blocks they would take and put in the empty long that usually contains ten. The students knew that only ten fit into the long so once they had a couple turns and had ten blocks in the long they put the cap on the long and asked for a new empty long. I stopped each student after each turn and asked them how many digi-blocks they had total. Since both students could tell me that there were ten ones in each long, I prompted them to use that information when counting instead of always counting from one. Both students were able to then count their full longs as tens and count out the correct number of digi-blocks they possessed. One student, for exmaple, had 26 digi-blocks that she just counted by saying “ten, twenty, one, two, three, four, five, and six”. I then asked her to draw the tens and ones using the number 26 hoping she would recognize that the picture would look exactly like the visual she had in front of her of the two filled longs and 6 digi-blocks. She understood the tens correctly but started thinking she need 26 ones. After, I corrected her she was able to correctly draw the correct number of tens and ones for the 19 digi-blocks I had and every time after!

This was such a great breakthrough because for the past two weeks both students were struggling to understand the tens and ones concept. The dice game was a great way for the two students to see the visual image of tens and ones and why we draw tens and ones in longs and circles like they had on their review sheet. I hope that by next week they still understand this concept and we can move forward and hopefully play other activities that will provide a deeper understanding for place value!

Posted on December 10th, 2010 by christina-mazza

Filed under: Christina Mazza

Mike Egan, on December 10th, 2010 at 10:18 pm Said:Very cool! This is indeed a breakthrough for these first graders. Digi-blocks are definitely a helpful tool….