Yes, you can enjoy teaching multi-digit whole numbers! By fourth grade, kids need to fully conceptualize place value. Are you ready to have some fun with this?
Before I begin my place value unit, I assess students’ skills with a beginning of year assessment. Students who have mastered most or all of the numeration skills will work with numbers up to 999,999,999. Everyone else will work with numbers to 999,999.
Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers – Place Value
First, I explicitly teach the structure of place value. Kids need to know that large numbers are written in periods of three digits. Furthermore, commas separate each period, and each period has a name. For fun, I let them explore names of really big numbers.
After that, it’s time to read large numbers. We practice at school. Then students take a set of numbers home to practice with their parents.
My pet peeve is that little word and. When writing numbers in words, and is only used one place in a number: between the whole number and decimal. For example, we say, “three thousand, twenty-four,” not “three thousand and twenty-four.”
Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers – Place Relationships
Now it’s time to explore the relationships between digits in a number. We want kids to know that the digit to the left is ten times as great as the digit to its right. Let’s bring Beyonce on stage!
You can see how the lyrics lend themselves to this concept. Sure, you can just present this verse to your class. But for a bigger wow factor, ask them to rewrite the lyrics themselves. That way, kids will feel like they’ve invented the idea. Talk about ownership!
Whenever I break out in song, “To the left, to the left,” my students know it’s about place value. They never get tired of hearing it. (And they always smile.) I never get tired of reminding them of that important little standard, 4.NBT.A.1.
Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers – Writing Numbers
Writing Numbers in Words
To me it makes sense to start with writing numbers in words. The number words become our spelling words for the week. (Fourteen, forty, and ninety are particularly tricky.) Then we spend some time converting numbers in standard form to word form. Kids need to put commas after period names and use hyphens between tens and ones place words. And remember – no and!
Writing Numbers in Standard Form
In addition to writing the digit in the correct place, kids need to remember to write zeros as place value. Otherwise, one thousand, sixty-two becomes 162.
Here’s a quick game to practice writing numbers in standard form:
- Write each of the ten digits on ten index cards. Next, write each place value, ones through millions on ten more index cards. Shuffle each set and place face-down on the table. Have students draw a digit and a place value then write it on a place value chart. When all of the digits are filled, students can read the number. (Or, if playing in a group, the student with the highest number wins that round.)
- For greater challenge, ask students to draw less cards each round. This way, they’ll be forced to put zeros in places with no digits.
- As an alternative, use dice instead of number cards.
Writing Numbers in Expanded Form
By this stage in the game, kids generally have little problem with this. If they do, simply have them line up the digits as shown on this poster.
In addition to all of this work with numbers and words, we spend some time with models. In our Writing to Explain bell work, students have to write numbers represented and explain.
Thanks for exploring numeration with me! Click here to grab a free set of whole number posters.