Using Base Ten Blocks to Teach Guided Math Lessons and Do Math Centers

Posted on November 24, 2010. Filed under: Manipulatives, Math Centers, virtual manipulatives | Tags: , , , , |

Throughout the month of November we have been discussing different mathematical manipulatives.  I am going to start a series of posts on Base Ten Blocks.  These are great mathematical manipulatives to use when working in small guided math groups. They are one of the most important manipulatives we have to teach place value, number sense, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Yet, they are very underutilized.   These  3-dimensional blocks come in a variety of materials (plastic, wood, magnets) and colors.  They are divided into cubes /units(one’s place) rods /longs(ten’s place) flats (hundred’s place) and blocks (thousand’s place).   

I want to start by giving an example of the base ten centers that I set up for students in the primary grades when we are exploring representing numbers and their values.  I will begin each lesson with a mini-lesson either using magnetic base ten blocks, overhead base ten blocks or an interactive base ten block game on the Smartboard. Then, I send the students to centers where they explore numbers.

I differentiate the centers by readiness- meaning I have students exploring different numbers.  So for example, in the stamp center, the novices might have blocks through the hundreds and the apprentices and experts might have blocks through the thousands.  I also use tic tac toe menus and dot cards during the place value unit (see   and ).  Finally, after student activity time, I always end with a share where we make an entry in our class math journal about the math that we did for the day.  We don’t just talk about what we did, but we talk about what the math was that we were practicing.

  1. Magnetic Base Ten Blocks – Partner A pull a card; Partner B show the representation on the white board with magnetic blocks
  2. Stamp Base Ten Blocks – Work as Individuals- Pull 2, 3 or 4 cards (depending on the group); Make the largest number possible and stamp it out; Then, make the smallest number possible  and stamp it out
  3. Regular Base Ten Blocks – Pull a card (numbers are written in expanded form); Show the number
  4. Paper Base Ten Blocks – Roll a number (2, 3 or 4 digit based on group); Write the name, the number, the expanded form and show the number by gluing down the paper Base Ten Blocks.
  5. Base Ten Block Flashcard Set –This is a great set that I bought at Lakeshore.  I like it because it has 4 representations of the number and you can give the experts all 4 cards to match up and the novices two.  There is a picture, expanded form, standard form and word form.  The students love to play this in groups.  It is a cooperative game, where everybody is helping each other to find all the pairs. 
  6. Computer Base Ten Block Game (various games)
  7. Draw out the number in Base Ten Block Representation (roll a number and represent it by drawing out the base ten blocks).
  8. Place Value Match Up Self Checking Puzzles (bought at Lakeshore)

Base Ten Block Mats:

Base Ten Block Paper (scroll down to the base ten materials)

Be sure to look for the upcoming posts on using Base Ten Blocks!

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

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3 Responses to “Using Base Ten Blocks to Teach Guided Math Lessons and Do Math Centers”

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Ah!!! at last I found what I was looking for. Somtimes it takes so much effort to find even tiny useful piece of information.

cultures have used place value systems that are not base-ten systems for. example the Mayans used a base twenty system which had portions that could be.

Absolutely. It is really interesting to explore some of these base systems with the upper elementary students.
Thanks for commenting!

Happy Mathing,
Dr. Nicki

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