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Is Not Knowing This Simple Math Concept Holding Your Students Back?

Brainstorming about how to make numbers such as 1 million comprehensible to students with the new common core standards, the fourth grade planning team and I discovered a way to do just that.  We knew that we didn’t have enough thousands blocks to make ten thousand, one hundred thousand, or for sure 1 million!  So we thought about how we could do this with pictures of the blocks.  We discussed taking pictures of the thousands blocks and putting them together in picture form so that the students could actually see the blocks.  I had no idea that the pictures would turn out SO LARGE!  I’m going to hang them up on the wall with labels, but I took  some pictures with them on the floor first while I was standing on a chair.  Take a look below.

I had to put the million block through the laminator folded in half so that it would fit.  Then I cut the edges to unfold it and put it through the laminator again to laminate the back.

We often forget to ask the simple questions about these concepts.  Such as how many hundreds are in 1000.  Students can often count to “ten hundred”, but they aren’t sure if that is the same as 1000.  I ask, “Is that the same? Are you sure?”

Then I prompt students to prove it with 10 hundreds blocks up against a thousand cube.  This same idea needs to be repeated with ten thousands,  hundred thousands, and millions so that they aren’t just a words they hear that just ‘means a really large number’.

For the first time ever, I hear fourth graders able to articulate that there were 10 thousands in a ten thousand, 10 ten thousands in a hundred thousand, and 10 hundred thousands in a million.  Students understanding this concept was a result of their creating a hundred thousand with ten thousand block printables, and creating one whole class one million after taping together many students’ hundred thousands.  I recommend this exploration activity for all students who are studying place value of numbers this large.  (I wish I could share the ten thousand printable with you, but one of the fourth grade teachers I planned with made it–I don’t have a digital copy to share, I’m sorry.  It would be easy enough to make.  Just copy and paste 10 thousands cubes together)

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