What is place value?

We have been thinking a lot about number recently. We watched the BBC documentary The Story of One.

My students were fascinated and made some great connections with things they had already learned about and it is inspiring new inquiries into binary numbers and other things linked to it. I has inspired some great thinking about number since.

I gave the students a quiz on place value and was surprised at how poorly they answered some of the questions and how low their understanding appeared to be. We did an activity with a number they generated and asked what was the biggest and smallest number they could make with the digits 7460315. The biggest didn’t present a problem but the smallest had them flummoxed as they didn’t include the zero. This led to a very interesting discussion about the options for moving the numbers around, what happened if we added a decimal point and would it matter where?

I then asked them

  • What is place value?
  • Why does it matter?

They went away and thought about it in groups and came up with some great thinking and understandings. I haven’t given them the same assessment back yet but i will and I am pretty certain the results will improve through the deeper conceptual understandings rather than 10 variations of ‘how much does the 4 represent in 6526421?’ and it didn’t send them to sleep!

You can see some of the thinking here. They also learnt how to use Padlet and add images to their comments!

Made with Padlet

It is worth noting too that only one student has English as a home language.

Do you have anything you may like to add?

“Mathematics expresses values that reflect the cosmos, including orderliness, balance, harmony, logic, and abstract beauty.”
― Deepak Chopra

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