Make some super simple DIY place value cups for an awesome maths tool for teaching and learning about place value! Adaptable for kids aged 5 to 11 with plenty of hands on learning involved, it’s sure to appeal to a wide range of learning styles too.
We have begun making lots of KS1 (ages 5-7) and KS2 (ages 7-11) learning resources to replace boring worksheet type questions that sometimes appear from school for homework for Miss 8 and 7. (Although I will say that their school is excellent in showing a creative and relaxed approach to home learning in general, there are always some topics which seem to rely on a written response on paper.)
However, as you know if you’ve read this blog for a while, I am a huge advocate for a worksheet free curriculum and would go as far as to say there is not one single thing gained from using them, nor are they ever necessary. You can ALWAYS find an alternative method for teaching and learning and as someone who struggled with abstract maths concepts as a child because no-one offered these to me, I want to help my kids as much as possible in this area!
Indeed I have an entire archive of PLAYFUL MATHS ideas to get you started with ideas here.
So, with place value being part of the maths curriculum for both of the older girls at the moment (currently in years 2 and 3) we made a simple tool for a fun way to practise!
DIY Place Value Cups
These are so ridiculously quick and easy to make and use, yet make an invaluable tool for the teaching arsenal as they’re SO visual and really appeal to kinaesthetic learners. The idea has been around for a while, certainly since my primary school teaching days, but I hadn’t yet used it with my own kids.
Simply write the digits 0-9 on a set of styrofoam cups which nest inside each other in such a way that a nice edge shows between each one. Most plastic cups don’t provide this edge and so don’t work so well.
Start by using just one cup, and talk about it representing one unit. They won’t need to practise this as it’s so simple! Then place a second cup inside the first to make a ten and unit together, as in this photo showing “78”. Miss 5 was comfortable at this level and enjoyed mixing the cups to make random tens and unit combinations and challenging herself to read as high as she could go.
Continue by adding one more to make a hundred, then a thousand, ten thousand, hundred thousand, million and even further, depending on the age and learning level of your child.
Miss 7 was able to read 4 cups together as thousands and understood the concept of ten thousands too.
Miss 8 wanted a bigger challenge and was able to read hundred thousands, millions and even hundred millions by the end of the exercise (as you’ll see in the video above!)
When using a large combination of cups to make big numbers, I talked to them about splitting the cups into hundreds (groups of 3 digits), by starting at the end and working backwards. You can see an example of this in part of the video where Miss 8 separates them out a little to be able to read them more clearly.
We certainly had to model this a few times and work out some huge numbers together, but after some practise they could read any combination of these with ease.
I hope you enjoyed this super simple DIY place value cups idea! They’re certainly worth the 20 seconds it takes to make them and are a worthwhile tool for the maths cupboard in the classroom, to be used for a little number focused warm up in class or homework alternative at home too.
Keep your eyes open for plenty more maths skills activities for older kids coming soon!
There are also plenty of ideas to keep you going in our Numeracy Archives here.