It's my hope that my third graders come to me with a solid understanding of numbers and operations and that they are able to use this understanding in flexible ways that will allow them to solve some more complex math problems. It can be a slow and gradual process for some and I think most would agree that we can help our students along with an increase in number exploration and thinking and many exposures to visualizing numbers in a variety of contexts. In third grade we extend students' thinking of place value as we cross over to the thousands place. These are some big numbers for these little kids! It's been my experience that the exploration of the pattern is important here. We always start with the base ten blocks. Third graders need to "see" these numbers to gain an understanding of just how big they really are. We compare the one to the one thousand, the ten to the ten thousand, and the hundred to the hundred thousand. We spend lesson time building these big numbers.
Here are two read alouds that explore what a MILLION is. Third graders are fascinated by this number and their little minds seem to be proccupied with it. Even though we don't teach through to the millions place in third grade, I give them a quick exposure to "get it out of the way".
We even duct taped 10 of the thousands cubes together to create the 10,000 rod. Wow, that was one BIG number! There were many AH HAH moments when they realized the shape of the tens rod was the same as the shape of the 10,000 rod. Here emerged the visualization of the number pattern. Success!
Along with the blocks we begin to take a look at the place value chart as it extends to the thousands place. Each student creates a pocket chart and cuts out number cards to use when building these numbers. They keep them in a baggie in their math folder so we can keep working with it all year long. I like to start lesson with warm ups to help them gain practice in building these numbers. Some times I represent it in word form and they have to create it in number form, other times I give them expanded form. Students need much practice to gain flexibility in representing numbers in all three ways.
I've put together printables so that you could download the chart and number cards to make with your students. I've also included a game that gives students practice adding/subtracting and comparing these large numbers. Check here for more details:
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