I’m excited to show you this place value activity because it’s a great way for kids to visualize and work with three digit numbers. Teach the concept of place value in a hands-on way, and then expand it to add and subtract with carrying and borrowing.
This place value activity is helpful for kids who are having trouble understanding place value, and it’s also helpful for kids who DO understand the concept already. Often kids can add three digit numbers using the process of carrying and get all the right answers, but they may not fully grasp what they are actually doing. This is such a fun way to experience what’s going on!
Supplies Needed for this Pony Beads Place Value Activity:
- Plastic punch cups – most punch cups are either 5 oz or 9 oz. Here are some 5 oz cups on Amazon.
- Plastic condiment cups – like these 2 oz condiment cups on Amazon
- Colorful pony beads – we bought ours at Walmart, but here are 3,600 beads on Amazon
You don’t necessarily have to use beads, though!
Try these alternatives if you already have them on hand:
- Cereal, such as Cheerios
- Mini erasers
- Dried beans
- Goldfish crackers
Once you have your supplies, fill a few larger cups with 100 beads each, and fill some of the smaller cups with 10 beads each.
Then you’re ready to represent 3-digit numbers with beads!
We started with 175.
Then we tried a number with a 2 in the hundreds place.
Next, we represented a number with a 0 in the tens place. This is where you really see what kids understand with place value!
We chose to leave a blank space where the tens place would be, rather than placing the ones right next to the three hundreds.
For younger kids, this is enough of a lesson right here! But for ones who are ready, you can continue on and add 3 digit numbers.
We’re going to add 157 + 144.
First, we’ll set out that many beads to represent 157 and 144.
To add, we will combine the ones first. It’s very important to stick to the pattern of adding the ones, then the tens, and then the hundreds.
Hmm, there are 11 ones. So we need to create another tens cup with 10 of the beads, and then we’ll have just 1.
Now we add our new ten to the tens group. That gives us 10 tens…
…So we’ll need to combine the 10 groups of ten to create another hundred. Grab another cup and pour in all 10 groups of ten.
That gives us 301 as our answer! Easy peasy!
More ways to use the place value beads:
- Represent the ages of each family member, including grandparents
- Represent the number of days in a year
- Practice subtraction with borrowing
Head over to see more hands-on math activities for elementary students!
Here are 75+ Hands-On Math Activities for Elementary Students
Find cool ways to teach fractions, telling time, counting money, measurement, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and more.
Susie Q. Mar 13, 2023
I really love this idea. The visual makes the concept of place value very understandable. And with fun colors!
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