Do you struggle to find a way to teach place value that works for every student? Place Value Tent Cards are a great way to integrate hands-on learning into place value. All students love using these, and it helps make understanding more concrete.

I’d love to tell you a bit about how I’ve used these Place Value Tents in my classroom. At the end of this post, I’ll show you where you can download these for free!

The tent cards that I use include numbers up to 90 000. Each place value group is copied and laminated using a different color of copy paper (this is very important!!).

Each place value group includes the numbers from 1-9. For example, the yellow “ones” cards include the numbers from 1-9. The pink “tens” tent cards include the numbers from 10-90. The blue “hundreds” tent cards include the numbers from 100-900. This continues for the “thousands” and “ten thousands” tent cards.

Okay, so now you know what the tent cards are. But how do you use them in your classroom?
Each student should have his/her own set of cards (yes, that means a lot of photocopying and laminating for you, but once it is done, you can use these for years and years)! I get the students to set the cards out in piles on their desks like this. Each pile should be in order from least to greatest or greatest to least.

Then, I ask them to make a number, for example “867.” To make the number 867, the students need to take the blue “800” card, the pink “60” card and the yellow “7.” Then, they stack them on top of one another like this:

Now, a big teachable moment will come when one student inevitably does this:

In the above picture, the number 867 is made up of 3 yellow “ones” cards. If a student does this, it is the perfect time to reinforce the fact that the number 867 is not an 8, a 6 and a 7; rather, it is an 800, a 60 and a 7. Additionally, remind students that you can’t put a “one” in the tens or hundreds place.

Now, hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen. This is my favorite part. Once you have confirmed that all students have formed the number correctly, you ask them to take it apart and what do you get? Ta daaaa! Expanded form! You’re amazed, right?!
Sometimes I get students to record the number and the expanded form as 867=800+60+7, but most of the time we just work with the cards and don’t write anything down.
These cards can be tricky to store without losing, but the best method that I have found is the good old large zip-loc bag. Before the end of class, I allow at least 5 minutes for students to re-pile the cards IN ORDER from least to greatest (this is great practice for ordering numbers). They get very fast with this process after a few practices. Then we put them into the bags and I store them in a large container for next time.

I was given the templates for these tent cards at a professional development session by Manitoba Education when I first started teaching, but I searched online and found where you can download them from (for free)! Just click here, and then scroll down to where it says “Blackline Masters for the Classroom.” They are the “Place Value Tents.” You can choose to print off only the ones, tens and hundreds or all the way to hundred thousands. Just remember to copy each different place value on a different color of paper!