Friday, September 14, 2012

Color Coded Place Value

Well, I've been out of commission for a couple of weeks.  I have been having problems with my neck and my arms and hands falling asleep.  I have felt just plain crummy.  I had surgery on my neck on Tuesday and now I'm recuperating at home for two weeks.  Man oh man, being away from my classroom for that long is HARD!!!!  I'm ready to get back in there.  At least I have my blog to keep me connected.

Is it hard for your kiddos to read large numbers?  My kids have the hardest time, especially when I taught in fifth grade where they are reading nine digit numbers.  Really all they need to read is three digits at a time.  I tell the story of Place Value Lane where the mailman delivers mail to the places on Place Value Lane. I refer to each set of three digits as a "family living in a house" and each house has a different last name.  There's the units house (they don't have a last name because they built their house before the others were there), the thousands house and the millions house etc.  Each new family to Place Value Lane paints a bright red comma on their curb as a reminder of their last name so the postman will know where to deliver their letter.  Hopefully, this helps the students see the numbers in sets of three digits instead of one long number that is difficult to read.   When we write the number, we write it with houses over it to show where each family lives. Green over the thousands house and blue over the units house.  We always circle the commas in bright red.

Then we pretend we are in a car driving down Place Value Lane.  We stop in front of the first house and read who is inside the green thousands house and then write that three digit number in words.  Then we pass the bright red comma.  (I sometimes have students write the comma name thousand first, so they can see who is at home in the thousands house BEFORE the comma, and the units house AFTER the comma.)  

After writing down the word thousand, we drive and stop at the blue units house and read the three digit number showing who is home.  

It really helps to use when there are several zeros in a number.  It places the long number in three digit "chunks" that are easier for the kids to work with.

I also use color coding when going from word form to standard form.  The very first thing we look for is a "last name" comma word.  If we have one, we draw a bright red rectangle around it.  Then we look at the words before the word thousand.  That is the three digit number in the green thousands house.  Next, we look at the words after thousand.  Those show the three digit number in the blue units house.  

Here is an example of a students paper.  Notice on the Standard to Expanded page, I had the kiddos draw the numbers pictorially using base ten drawings.  This helps them understand the value of each digit, and why each digit is written as it is in expanded form.  After practicing this using colored pencils, kids can go to using pencils only, but I always see someone using the green, red, blue pencils to color code their independent practice.

Also, check out my Reading Large Numbers on Place Value Lane in TpT.  It is a hands on activity where students can create their own (up to 12 digit) numbers, and take a car and drive through the number to say the number in word form.

Hope you find this helpful.  I'd love to hear your ideas on how you make reading large numbers easier for your students.