Place value is one of those subjects that I always think will be easy, but turns out to be really hard for some kids to master. Using hands-on manipulatives is definitely the way to go, but the problem is I never have enough. Actually … I take that back, I always have plenty of tens and ones, but only a few hundreds and if I’m lucky I might have 1 of those big plastic thousands blocks.
A few years ago I found a great, and cheap, solution. I made my own durable manipulatives. I took plastic canvas, the kind used for needlepoint as seen here at Joann’s, and cut it into ones, tens and hundreds pieces. You want to get the canvas that has the biggest holes you can find, to make the manipulatives easier to manage.
If you count the holes in each piece it matches the number it represents, the ones have one hole, the tens have 10 holes and so on. What I love about these pieces is that not only do I have enough for every kid in the class to make the number 999, they are small enough to fit on my place value boards and they don’t take a lot of storage space. I keep my tens and hundreds in ziploc storage tubs and the ones I keep in ketchup cups.
When teaching thousands I take 10 of the hundreds pieces and tie them together with string. Though now that I teach Expressions Math and they talk about a thousand looking like a long rectangle, I might go back and make some long thousands rectangles out of plastic canvas. Another project to add to my summer to do list! 😉