Here we go again: just when you thought you had everything fixed up and all your ducks lined up in a neat little row, I’m back to give you some straight talk about place value, because, as I’m fond of saying, you’re teaching it wrong. Not only are you teaching it wrong, but you probably don’t even understand much of it yourself. Oh, you thought you knew everything, just because you bought a few games and did some random stuff with those silly “foldables” that they sell all over the web. Let me tell you something: you can do all this stuff, but when you’re done, I guarantee your students will still make lots of mistakes and have plenty o’ misconceptions about place value when they’re done.
What are some of these misconceptions? Okay, here’s my short list, but I’m sure you’ll encounter many, many more....
• “0” is not a number; in fact, I’m going to bet your students think 0 is synonymous with the word “nothing.” WRONG!
• Place value was invented by white men in Europe and has always been around. WRONG!
• Place value is something you study at the beginning of the year, and don’t need to think about during the rest of the year. WRONG!
• Children usually understand place value by the end of first or the beginning of second grade. WRONG!
• The Base 10 number system is the only one your students are ever going to encounter. WRONG!
• The hundreds chart is a great way to teach place value. WRONG!
• Base ten blocks are helpful in illustrating the place value system. WRONG!
All I can say is this: if you’ve ever thought of becoming an “expert” on place value and you truly want to learn how to teach it correctly, then you must read all of this very carefully and, even more so, mend your ways. Go look at those activities you’ve been using and understand one thing: they are JUNK! Why? Because they are giving your students a very shallow and fragile understanding of place value, one that will not hold up to much scrutiny. Yes, they’ll have fun playing all those games and gluing all that paper together, but they still won’t know much about place value and how important it is. Heck, I’ll bet they’ll still end up believing “zero” is synonymous with “nothing.”
I can guarantee without question that after you’ve read and digested everything that is in this booklet that you’ll be one bazillion times more knowledgeable about place value than anyone else in not only your school, not only your district, not only your state, but your entire universe.
Many thanks to "The Almost Their Height Teacher" for finding the layout error on page 43 that obscured an explanation of "MIsses, Hits and Bullseyes..." Sandwich for you!