Teaching place value in elementary is an important math skill that your students will need throughout their education. While it can seem like the only way to teach place value in elementary is to “drill and kill” the idea, it doesn’t have to be that way! With this fun place value game, your students will learn place value skills!
Why Teach Place Value in Elementary
Place value is a skill students will need throughout their lives in math class. In order for students to understand place value, they first need to know how to group numbers. If you think about it, numbers are jut made up of smaller numbers. Knowing how to group numbers is an important skill to teach before you teach place value in elementary. For more detail, you can watch the video on my YouTube channel. Just click on the image below to watch.
Why Teach Place Value in Elementary with Zurkle
To help teach place value in elementary, you can always play a fun game I call “Zurkle” which helps students learn how to count. You can do this with any base, but if you’re students are struggling with grouping numbers, you can start with a base 4 instead of a base 10. Today, I’m going to teach you how to place Zurkle with your students is a place-value-board which is simply two different colors of paper taped together and unfix cubes.
How to Introduce Zurkle
To begin, you want to put four starts on the board (or whatever base number you are starting with). Have your students count the stars. When you are about to say “four,” say “Zurkle” instead. Students will usually laugh at this which is part of the fun! Repeat this process with a different shape like four circles and do the same thing. After doing this a few times, have students look for things to count around the room. They can count books, pencils, chairs, etc.
Introducing Your Place-Value Board
Once students have counted objects around the room for a few minutes, show students your place-value board and ask what they notice. Most students will say right away that one side is white and one side is another color like blue. When students tell you one side is white and the other is blue, tell your students that the white side is where you add one cube at time. However, as soon as you get enough for a zurkle (so four), you will snap your cubes together and make a rod. This rod is moved to the blue side.
Using Your Place-Value Board to Teach Place Value in Elementary
When you start to teach place value in elementary with Zurkle, you might want to use a sound to start. I have students put one cube on the white side of the paper for every chime they hear. After they hear a chime, they say “Zero zurkles, one.”
They will say this again every time they hear a chime changing the number “one” to whatever number they are on so two and three in this case. When they hear the fourth chime, they say zurkle, snap their cubes together, and put them on the blue side.
Repeat this process until you have 3 zurkles and two ones.
Reversing Your Place-Value Board
Once you teach students place value in elementary using Zurkle to count up, you can teach them how to count down. All you have to do is reverse the game. When the chime rings, take away one cube. Repeat two chimes so there are just the three zurkles. Then, continue. Most students will take one cube but leave the other three snapped together. This is a great opportunity to teach place-value to students and remind them you have to have 4 cubes snapped together for it to be in the Zurkle column. Continue this game until all the cubes are off the board.
You can play this gave with any number! I usually choose one number a week and sometimes will say a different silly, nonsense word besides Zurkle. This game is great for more than just to teach place value in elementary. You can also use it when you start teaching money!