The Best Place Value Chart Ever: Your Free Printable Place Value Accordion
A place value chart is an essential part of any elementary school teacher’s toolkit; place value underpins so much of what children learn in math, and having a simple way to help them grasp these concepts is invaluable.
But finding one to use and reuse can be difficult.
Not any more!
Our printable place value chart is exactly the sort of simple, easy-to-recreate resource that’s brilliant to have in your back pocket ready for the start of the year!
What is a place value chart?
A standard place value chart or place value chart is a simple pictorial guide to support students’ understanding of digit value in a number. It is a helpful tool to interpret the number system.
The size and complexity of the place value chart will vary as a child progresses from kindergarten to 5th grade.
In kindergarten, your place value chart probably has nothing more than the tens place and the ones place on it, looking like this
Then by the time students get to 5th grade, their place value chart will not only go up to the billions place on the left-hand side but include decimals to the thousandths place on the right.
How a place value chart works
The idea behind these handy math resources is simple; students can quickly and accurately find the result of multiplying and dividing a given number by 10, 100 and even 1000 or more. They do this by moving numbers left and right on the chart through different place values, depending on the amount they are being multiplied/divided by.
For example, dividing a three-digit number by 10 means simply moving all three digits one column to the right. Multiplying by 100 would mean moving the digits two columns to the left.
Importantly, because place value charts can be made that run into decimal places as well as whole numbers, children can clearly visualize what actually dividing or multiplying decimals does to the value of each digit.
Why use a place value chart?
The beauty of a place value chart is that it can be reused throughout math lessons from kindergarten to 5th grade. In lower elementary (1st and 2nd grade), you may only make use of tens and hundreds, but place value charts can be easily modified to cover thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands – however far you need them to go for upper elementary math.
You can create a decimals place value chart that focuses only on the ones place and below or one that looks at negative numbers, and how place value works for them.
Once the basics of using a place value chart have been established in class, they can be used to aid learning of all manner of place value-related topics; they are a good way to help students get to grips with ordering numbers, for example.
Of course, they can also be used in conjunction with other place value worksheets and resources, such as place value mats, place value arrow cards, and so on.
Put an end to place value misconceptions
One of the things you’ll hear time and again in discussions about the place value system is this:
“To multiply a number by 10 you just need to add a 0 to the end of a number.”
Sound familiar? It is of course a complete myth! Whether it’s a previous teacher or a parent who’s taught this, it’s really tricky to move students on from believing this. Because it does sometimes work. If you multiply 29 x 10 adding a zero gives you the right answer of 290.
But this concept is totally wrong and causes major problems with students’ understanding of place value when decimal places are added into the mix. 2.9 multiplied by 10 is definitely not 2.90!
If you’re teaching place value to 4th grade students for the first time or trying to correct the misconception ready for teaching multiplication/division by 10, you’ll need a simple, tried and tested way to explain it so it sticks and your students don’t make the same mistake again.
While base ten blocks and other math resources can be useful for understanding place value for different numbers in isolation or for addition and subtraction, more complex operations need something else.
The best place value chart
As a teacher, you already know how important the place value chart or place value chart is in your teaching but did you know there was a way to supercharge its effectiveness?
All it takes is some colored cards, pens, and a pair of scissors. Within ten minutes you can have a foolproof tool for showing how to move numbers to the left or right when teaching place value. It’s so simple you can even get your students to make it with you!
How to make your place value concertina
What you will need:
•2 A4 sheets of colored card stock (preferably two different colors)
• A felt tip pen
• A pencil
• A ruler
How to use your place value chart or place value concertina
Once you’ve made your place value concertina, simply ask students to make a number. In the example below we have made 369.
Multiply by 10 using your place value chart
Then ask them to multiply by ten, by moving the numbers one column each to the left. They will also need to add a zero as the placeholder for the ones column. Not for nothing did my class always call it Zero the Hero!
Divide by 10 using your place value chart
If you want to divide 369 by 10 then you simply move the numbers one column each to the right as seen in the picture below. Students are quick to pick up the idea and process of physically moving the digits. This embeds the concept for them correctly, helping them to move on to large numbers and more complex concepts.
On a place value chart (as shown below), not only is it clear that this is the answer, children can further see that 9 is now the tenths place. Dividing by 10 once again would move the 9 into the hundredths place and the 6 into the tenths place etc.
You can also move on to multiplying by 100, moving two columns left and needing two zeros, and so on.
Place value chart activity ideas
My students have always loved this place value concertina resource! We would play games with them, including me calling out clues for a number and them adding the right digits into the columns to show the answer.
- I am a three-digit number. My tens digit is 6 less than my ones digit and 1 less than my hundreds digit. If you multiply me by 7, the estimated product is 1,400. What number am I? (For more tricky ones I might ask them to work in pairs or groups).
- Ask children to each make a number (you may want to specify for example a 3-digit or 2-digit number or a number with 1 decimal place) in their concertina. They can then show their number to a partner and together try adding/ subtracting one number from the other. This will help to reinforce place value in addition and subtraction.
I hope you find this place value chart useful. This free resource has not only worked brilliantly for me during the many years of my own teaching career but it was passed down to me by my own teacher (now retired). So thank you very much Mr Bell – we all owe you one!
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The content in this article was originally written by EdTech consultant Jodie Lopez and has since been revised and adapted for US schools by elementary math teacher Christi Kulesza