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Introducing Place Value to 1st and 2nd Graders

It’s a common activity used to introduce place value. You give your students a pile of crackers, pretzel sticks and chocolate chips. You tell your students that the crackers are the hundreds, pretzel sticks are the tens and chocolate chips are the ones. You and your students take turns building numbers with a fun snack. 
 
Highly engaging? 
Yes. 
 
Highly effective? 
Not for all of your students. 
 
If you are aiming to reach all of your students- even those who tend to struggle the most- you want to be sure that you are following a progression when introducing new concepts. 
 
Keep these two principles in mind. 
 
1) Think CRA. That means you are starting with hands-on materials, moving to representational models like place value drawings or a place value chart and then finally moving towards abstract models such as expanded form and unit form. 
 
2) Remember that not all hands-on tools are created equally! Start with groupable models like linking cubes where your students can physically put together groups of ten from ones or groups of 100 from tens. Next, move your students towards proportional, pre-grouped models such as base ten blocks. Last, tools such as place value disks that are pre-grouped and non-proportional can be used to support your students. 
 
Keeping both of these progressions in mind will ensure that you are reaching as many learners as possible as you introduce new (and important!) concepts to your students! 

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