Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Using Manipulatives to Compare Large Numbers

Comparing numbers using manipulatives

I am a firm believe that older kids need manipulatives in math too! Sometimes I think people forget to make math concrete in the upper grades. However, I've found that the older kids still benefit from hands-on learning, just like in the lower grades.

Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to figure out the best way to use hands-on materials with upper grade math. When I'm teaching my 4th graders to compare and order numbers, the numbers are too big to use place value blocks. So here are some of my favorite things to use:

Use number cards to play a place value game

I love to use number cards. This is a game I play with my small groups. Depending on their level, the kids will draw a certain number of cards. (My higher kids will make bigger numbers) Then the kids arrange their cards to make the largest number possible. Then they all compare their numbers. I also use a deck of cards with the face cards removed for this game.

use a place value chart with counters to compare numbers

This strategy is really great for struggling students because it is so visual. I like to put place value charts in sheet protectors {click on the picture to download my FREE place value charts}. Then when we are comparing numbers, we write them in the place value chart with a dry erase marker. This helps the kids line up the numbers correctly. Next I have them place a counter on the digit that helps them compare the two numbers. In this picture, the numbers are the same up until the thousands place. Once we get to the thousands place, we can see that the top number is smaller (the counter is covering up the #8).

Use a small group observation form to keep your notes

When I work with my small groups, I always use a checklist or observation form so I can keep track of my observations. I made an example (with made-up names) to show what they might look like. I've learned that if I don't write it down, I'll forget! It also helps me collect data for our campus intervention meetings.

What are some of your favorite manipulatives to use when you're teaching kids to compare large numbers?

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