Teaching Place Value with Special Needs
Teaching place value can be difficult with students who struggle with the effects of dyscalculia, intellectual disability or other challenges. One mother writes regarding her adopted children who suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and resulting “Place Value Woes.”
Q: How can I teach place value? A: Here are some tips.
1. Cups & Straws
You can use three cups to represent 1′s, 10′s, and 100. Create “23″ from 2 straws in the 10′s cup and 3 straws in the 1′s cup. Practice representing quantities each day with numbers from the lessons. Demonstrate. Then let the student show the numbers.
2. Pocket Chart
Using a similar principle, you can create or purchase a pocket chart like these.
3. Base Ten Blocks
My daughter struggled with place value for a long time, until we “created” each number with Base Ten Blocks. Begin by having the students create two-digit and three-digit numbers with the blocks. Instruct them to “make” the number from the fewest blocks possible. For example, the student with 2 tens & 3 ones wins over the student with 23 ones. Show how 10 ones can be traded for 1 ten.
If you purchase enough of each (1′s, 10′s, 100′s) for regrouping, you can practice adding and subtracting with these blocks.
4. Pennies, Dimes, Dollars
You can also teach place value with pennies, dimes, and dollars. Create index card “signs” to indicate 1, 10, 100. Obtain rolls of pennies and dimes, along with stacks of one dollar bills. Create 23 cents with the fewest number of coins. Repeat with different amounts of money. Have them try with pennies, then dimes. When they understand these, you can explain that one dollar is the same as one hundred pennies.
Find something inexpensive for them to purchase at the store (or role play at home). You could play “Bank Teller” or “Store Keeper” and exchange pennies for dimes, dimes for dollars.
Another idea – play Monopoly with the student as Banker for the 1′s, 10′s and 100′s. Someone else can be in charge of the other denominations. He will need to exchange 10 1′s for a 10 and 10 10′s for 100.
6. Daily Demonstrations
Whether you use straws or blocks, you will want to demonstrate two-digit and three-digit numbers every day. Then have each student create two or three numbers, one at a time, from the manipulatives. As they “see” the place value in action, they might begin to internalize the concept.
You may have done much of the above already. If so, you might try turning more of these activities into group games, timed races, or personal contests. For example, “How quickly can you form this number from straws?” Chart the time in seconds or minutes. Note improvement over the next few months.
Find books like the Place Value selection in this read-aloud set.
The best arithmetic program we have found for special-needs mastery is Rod & Staff Arithmetic. We include multi-sensory activities in our lesson plans for each level to ensure sufficient practice and understanding.
We may need to keep teaching, showing, reteaching, and practicing “place value” long after the math lessons assume place value is known. But all of the hard work will reap benefits, especially if you can help them understand before they reach two-digit multiplication!
Choose one or more of the above. Keep teaching and reviewing in small, visual or multi-sensory lessons each day.
If you would like to have such activities pre-correlated with lessons, we offer year-round, content-oriented, multi-sensory activities throughout our Simply Classical lesson plans designed to reinforce skills and concepts covered in every R&S Arithmetic Level.