What is Place Value?

by admin

Here at Whizz Education, we know the importance of having parental figures involved in a child’s education. If you, as parents, can show that maths is fun and relevant in everyday life, you’ll be a dramatic help to teachers and educators in the classroom!

In this – the first of our ‘how to’ blogs – we’ll guide you through how to teach your child about place value with a few, fun and easy-to-execute games and exercises whether your child is in Reception or Year 8.

But first, let’s remind ourselves of just what exactly ‘place value’ is…

What is Place Value?

Learning about place value allows a student to know the ‘value’ of a digit within a number by looking at its ‘place’ in relation to a decimal point. It is important that children understand that whilst a digit can be the same, its value depends on where it is in the number.

Take, for example, the number 725.1.

  • The digit ‘7’ in the number ‘725.1’ has a value of 700, or 7 hundreds
  • The digit ‘2’ has a value of 20, or 2 tens
  • The digit ‘5’ has a value of 5, or 5 ones
  • The digit ‘1’ has a value of 0.1, or 1 tenths

Why is it important to learn about place value?

This kind of information can seem self-explanatory to adults. However, learning the place value of different digits within a number is an important skill for many, more complicated mathematical operations.

An understanding of place value helps children, at different stages, to:

  • Determine which of two numbers is larger in value and get them to explain why.
    e.g. £7501 > £7.501
  • Partition the numbers ( to break up the numbers into tens and ones to find the answer)for addition and subtraction
    e.g. 70 + 6 = 76
    e.g. 78 – 56 = (70 + 8) – (50 + 6) = (70 – 50) + (8 – 6) = 22
  • Discover the factors of a number for multiplication and division
    e.g. the place value of the digit ‘5’ in 500 is five hundreds, or 5 x 100
  • Read’ numbers – to be able to point to a digit within a number and know its value
  • Grasp the language of statistics and know the meaning of terms such as one tenth of the population or five hundred times the size
  • Line up numbers correctly for any mathematical operation (addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division)
    10 345
      6 237  –
  • Round numbers to the nearest ten, one hundred, or one thousand

As you can see, place value is important across the board for handling money, weighing goods, and reading data in the news, among other things.

How can I help my child to understand place value within the home?

Maths-Whizz provides access to a number of free interactive lessons on place value from Reception through to Year 8 students. They provide a good starting point for different age groups.

To make this clearer to children, teachers like to represent this in the form of place value columns, where the constituent numbers are placed according to whether they’re 100s, 10s or 1s and so on. For further fun, produce a grid like the following (on paper, on a whiteboard, or using other objects from your home). Depending on their age, see if your child can:

  • Tell which of two numbers is larger
  • Write a two-, or three- or four-digit number in the correct place on the grid
  • Move the numbers to make it 10 or 100 times bigger or smaller
  • State how many ‘ones’ or ‘tens’ etc. are in the number
  • Identify the quantity value of any digit (e.g.10 000) or the column value e.g. 10 thousands

Throughout primary school, concrete maths resources are used to help make place value easy to understand for children. As a further activity, why not use objects (blocks, beans, spaghetti hoops and marbles) or drawn shapes (dots, squares, circles and triangles) to represent ‘hundredths ’, ‘tenths’, ‘ones’, or ‘tens’.



Write a number and see if your child can pile/draw the objects in the correct quantities. For example, the number 75 would need 7 hair bands representing ‘tens’ and 5 coins representing ‘ones’ (and as an extension, try exchanging a hairband for 10 coins!).

As your child gets older, the size of the numbers they are expected to deal with grows. For example, year 1’s will be taught to count to 100. Year 2’s will learn the place value of each digit in a two-digit number (tens, ones). Year 3’s will be able to count to 1000 and partition two-digit numbers e.g. 75 = 70 + 5. By year 4 students can recognise the place value of any digit in a four-digit number.

Place value is intrinsically linked to many other areas of maths; a solid understanding of place value provides the essential number knowledge needed to complete calculations, including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and fractions.

Why not send us pictures of you learning about place value this week on our Facebook page or Twitter account?

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