Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers

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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?

Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers

Let’s look in on our favorite fourth grade teacher. Before the school year began, Ms. Sneed’s principal emailed her. “This year,” the message read, “you’ll have a cluster of high ability students in your class. Just wanted to give you a heads-up so you can plan for them.”

Ms. Sneed sighed and ran her fingers nervously through her hair. Although she had always wanted the cluster, differentiation would be a challenge.

Teaching Multi-Digit Numbers – Place Value

In the first weeks of school, Ms. Sneed always taught place value. After all, most math topics required a deep understanding of multi-digit whole numbers. As she began planning, she looked up the standards:

  • Recognize that in a multi-digit whole number, a digit in one place represents ten times what it represents in the place to its right. For example, recognize that 700 ÷ 70 = 10 by applying concepts of place value and division.
  • Read and write multi-digit whole numbers using base-ten numerals, number names, and expanded form. Compare two multi-digit numbers based on meanings of the digits in each place, using >, =, and < symbols to record the results of comparisons.
  • Use place value understanding to round multi-digit whole numbers to any place.

In tiny lettering at the bottom of the page, she also read, “Grade 4 expectations in this domain are limited to whole numbers less than or equal to 1,000,000.”

Aha. Maybe she could just ask the advanced kids to work with larger numbers. Ms. Sneed scurried over to her computer and visited her favorite teacher store, Teachers pay Teachers. When she typed in “differentiated place value unit,” the resource she needed popped up. In the place value unit, students who had mastered most or all of the numeration skills would work with numbers up to 999,999,999. Everyone else would work with numbers to 999,999.

Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers – Place Value

Ms. Sneed loved the guidance sheets – sort of like mini posters – that were included in the unit. First, she’d teach them how to read and write numbers in periods.

Help your fourth grade students understand large numbers with this mini poster. It shows how multi-digit numbers are organized in periods. #4.NBT.A.2

Are you “pinspired”? Feel free to pin images from this post.

Once kids understood that each period had three places – and each was read the same way – they’d be able to read any number! After learning with this mini-poster, they would practice reading large numbers.

Help your fourth grade students read large numbers properly (with no "and"!) #4.NBT.A.2

Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers – Place Relationships

After that, Ms. Sneed would teach her kids to recognize that the digit to the left is ten times as great as the digit to its right. She decided to bring Beyonce on stage!

Help your fourth grade students understand that a digit in one place represents ten times what it represents in the place to its right. How? Bring in Beyonce! #4.NBT.A.1

The lyrics really lent themselves to this concept. Whenever she broke out in song, “To the left, to the left,” her students would remember how place value worked.

Ms. Sneed browsed the student pages in the place value unit. Yep. Plenty of games and worksheets would help kids conceptualize numeration.

Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers – Writing Numbers

Writing Numbers in Words

To Ms. Sneed, it made sense to start with writing numbers in words. The number words would become their spelling words for the week. “Fourteen, forty, and ninety are particularly tricky,” she reminded herself. Then they would spend some time converting numbers in standard form to word form.

Teach your fourth grade students to write large numbers. #4.NBT.A.2

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,” Ms. Sneed thought. “Otherwise, one thousand, sixty-two becomes 162.”

She looked at a game for 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

Most of Ms. Sneed’s kids would already understand expanded form. For students with problems, the unit used this mini-poster.

Help your fourth grade students write large numbers in expanded form. #4.NBT.A.2

Ms. Sneed was thrilled with all of the games, worksheets and units in the place value unit. Because one group worked with numbers to 1,000,000 and the other to 1,000,000,000, she knew she’d reach all learners too. A little smile crossed her lips. This was going to be a great year.

Help your fourth grade students learn about multi-digit whole numbers with these differentiated numeration activities. #4.NBT.A.1, #4.NBT.A.2, #4.NBT.A.3

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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