Thursday, December 4, 2008

Getting our hands on place values

Math U See is an awesome hands on curriculum. You can buy blocks to represent the numbers and they have them in values 1-9, tens and hundreds. To learn place value they have a thing called "Decimal street." They teach that there are three houses on the block. The units (ones), tens and hundreds. They have different color blocks for each place value and of course each house is the appropriate size to hold up to 9 of each kind of block. I was really worried that my daughter would struggle with place value, but this is taught in such a way that it was really easy for her to grasp and is also fun to do! Here is how it works.

We have cards 0-9 in three different colors. Green for the units, blue for the tens and red for the hundreds (which is the same color as the corresponding blocks). She draws one of each card and places it below the appropriate house. Then, starting with the units she places that many blocks in the house. (They call the ones units for the sake of accuracy and to avoid confusion. It is explained that one is a counting number which tells us how many, and units is the place value to tell us what kind)

When we have all the units in place we go on to the tens.

Then of course next is the hundreds.

Now we have all the houses in place on Decimal Street.

Math U See wants you to do three things: build it, say it and write it. This allows the child to use their eyes, ears and hands to learn. If your child does not write well yet you can either write it for them, have them use stickers or as I do, let them attempt to write it even if it does not come out well. When we use the workbook, I let Gess attempt to write the numbers copying what I write on the board. For this, I usually do the writing.

After we have built the number we work on saying it. I ask Gess how many units there are, and have her tell me and we do the same for the the tens and then the hundreds. As she tells me I write the number down on the chalk board. Then I ask her what the number is called. (She has learned that while we build the number starting with the units, when we say it we start with the hundreds.) At this point her response is generally "two hundred, four tens, four." While she says it incorrectly I actually love this answer because it shows that she not only knows what the number is, but why it is called that! I find that completely amazing!

In the videos and the materials they do explain that the "ty" at the end of tens numbers (such as sixty, seventy, etc) actually means "tens." So, to help Gess learn it correctly I write the appropriate response under the number and help her as she says it. She is starting to get better at it and sometimes will now say "two hundred forty two" like she is supposed to. Below is how I present the number to her. Remember I wrote each number as she told me how many of each place value there was. When I asked her how many units and she said four, then I wrote the four in that place, etc.

Another thing I do to practice is give her random numbers and ask her how many tens are in it, or how many hundreds, units, etc. It just thrills me that she always knows! She has also counted the amount of units that are on the tens and hundreds blocks so she understands why they are called that.

Math U See also comes with a video that is for the teacher to view to see how to present each lesson, but they say that you can view it with the students as well if you want. Gess loves watching the videos and on more difficult lessons like this it is good for her to watch them more than once. She always asks me to watch the video, so I know she likes them. We are going to be reviewing the lessons on tens to help reinforce the way to properly say the word. As it stands now though, she seems to grasp the place value of units, tens and hundreds. There is nothing like putting your hands on a lesson to implant it in the mind!

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