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Dear Mitch,

What is a fun way to reinforce the concept of place value for decimals?

Teacher, Grade 4


Dear Jon,

Here is a simple classroom game that would also be used in a one-on-one tutoring situation to teach/reinforce the concept.

Divide the class into two or three groups. For each group you will need:

  • Six matching clear containers (drinking glasses or disposable water bottles with the tops cut off – hint fill with hot water for a few seconds before cutting to soften)
  • Thick black permanent marker
  • A decimal point – hardened Play-Doh, black painted rock, etc. large enough to be seen from the back of the room
  • 15+ plastic bottle caps from disposable water bottles or soda bottles (not the flat metal ones from glass bottles, which are harder to count from the back rows)

Have the students use the marker to label the containers. Each container should have one of the following labels: Ones, Tens, Hundreds, Tenths, Hundredths, Thousandths.

The students should then arrange the bottles in the correct order of place value with the decimal point in the correct place.

Toss a few caps into each bottle and have the students figure out what number is represented. For example if there are two caps in the ones, three caps in the tens, five caps in the hundreds, one cap in the tenths, and four caps in the hundredths, then the number would be: 532.14 (if I did that right!)

Then have each group make up combos for the other group to figure out.

When they are really advanced, you mix up the order of the bottles and they should still be able to figure it out, usually by ordering the bottles first.

For a super-bonus, put more than ten in one container and have the students rearrange the caps to represent carrying.

Good luck and thanks for teaching.

-- Mitch