Getting Place Value to Stick With Your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Graders with Place Value Anchor Charts

Today, I’m discussing a math concept that can be a little, er, confusing for those 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students. 

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of teaching place value, you know it can be tricky for your class to understand. But it’s also one of the concepts they need a firm grasp on because it’s a main foundation of higher-level learning.

With that said, don’t hide under your desk just yet! In this blog, I’m giving you everything you need to make learning place-value fun and effective!

Your Place Value Teaching Toolkit 

Here are must-have tools to teach place value (with a little help from some *free* place value anchor charts) so it clicks and sticks for your students.

Place Value Vocab Anchor Charts

Like any other classroom concept, effective place-value teaching begins with the basics. So, before you do anything else, make sure you introduce and explain the vocab. When your students have a solid understanding of the unit words, they’ll have a much easier time making sense of place values.

I always recommend creating a place value anchor chart with a list of must-have unit words. Would you expect anything less from me? HA! 

Here are key words to talk about leading up to, and all throughout, your place value unit:

  • Digit: Any number 0-9. Digits make up all of our numbers, even ones that are bigger than 9!
  • Value: The amount each digit is worth.
  • Place value: The value of a digit based on its position in a number. 
  • Expanded Form: A way to write numbers that show the value of each digit. Ex: 397 is written as 300 + 90 + 7
  • Standard Form: The usual way of writing numbers using digits. Ex: 397
  • Model Form: Showing a number using place value blocks!
  • Word Form: Writing numbers using words instead of digits. Ex: 397 is written as three-hundred ninety-seven.

Remember: Learning these words takes practice! To really drive the point home, incorporate them into everyday lessons and casual teaching moments. 

Place Value Anchor Charts

Let’s get visual with place value anchor chart. These are my favorites – and you can grab them for free! 

Click the links below to grab your free anchor charts.

This particular anchor chart gives students a clear breakdown of what they need to know and gives concrete meaning to your list of vocabulary words.

Print these out, hang them up in your math centers, and refer to them each time you discuss the wonderful topic of place value! I’m also giving you a mini version of this chart, perfect for small group instruction or individual working tasks. 

Place Value Blocks

Just like the place value anchor charts, place value blocks are a necessity. These hands-on manipulatives offer a multi-sensory approach to help your learners understand how numbers are constructed.

Place Value Activity Ideas

If there’s anything I know about teaching kids tricky concepts, it’s that hands-on activities make it stick that much better! Here are four simple and fun place value activity ideas you can use with things you already have in your classroom!

Skip Counting

Students need to understand skip counting before they can nail down place values. Before you introduce place values (like, weeks before) make sure you practice counting by 1’s and 10’s way past 100. Fluency matters here!


This activity requires my free place value anchor chart, so be sure to grab it! They’re available in the thousands and hundred thousands.

Use post it notes to replace the numbers in the existing printable with your own numbers. Then, challenge students to represent your number using place value blocks. 

You can also call out numbers and give the students the post it notes to create the numbers on the place value anchor chart.

Roll, Write, Model

Have your students roll a dice three times, recording the number they rolled each time. Then, have them create their new 3-digit number using place value blocks. 

Example: If they roll a 3, 6, and 4, they write the number 364 and then create it using one hundreds block, six ten sticks, and 4 single units.

Student Number Line

Hand each student a card with a single digit on it. Call out different three digit numbers and have students arrange their digits in the correct order. This is a great small group activity!

At the end of the day. . . 

Don’t get frustrated with yourself if your students are struggling to understand place value.

Remember, difficult concepts take time! Using powerful visuals, place value anchor charts, and hands-on activities will guide them in the right direction. You’re doing great!

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