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Place Value musings at the Alice Springs airport

Published over 1 year ago by Ann Baker

I am on my way to Ernabella for the week where part of my focus is place value.

I have great difficulty understanding why we use formal place-value materials to try to embody or make place-value concepts visible to young students by using materials that have no value other than the one that we as adults ascribe to them. For instance, when we use MAB1 base 10 blocks, we teIl children that:

Place Value 1

All goes well until we decide to use the same blocks to introduce decimals and then:

Place Value 2

Take note of the poor use of place value language, ‘a one’, ‘a ten’ and ‘a hundred’. The ‘a’ singular so we can't have ‘a two’ but we can have a group of 10 or a stack of ten. So now to some fun and some realism!

I love to shop at the airport in Alice springs. Look what I found!

Place Value 4

Caterpillars, made with 10 medium sized beads, I big bead and 2 small beads. Now we can ask some authentic questions about place value.

Note: The counting will make visible who counts one by one, two by two, ten by ten and who thinks multiplicatively (five tens are 50). Now we are ready for a problematized situation.

Place Value 3

In order to solve this problem students will be engaged in working with counting patterns, ideas of place value, and in ways which will reveal who is applying skip counting patterns, multiplicative or additive thinking and will give windows into what they do know and can apply.

Ooops! There goes the final call for my flight to Ayers Rock. Over to you to check out how it goes in your classroom.

Want more place value, place value to 100 and beyond and place value to 1 000 000 resource? Or want to learn more about problematized situations?

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