Math: Place Value
Container Lid Game
get more container lids, go through your refrigerator or pantry and eat up the
last pickle, the last blob of peanut butter, etc. You'll have a goofy
assortment of items for your snack, but at least you may come up with a few
more container lids for today's activity! Last, but not least, since you'll
always need milk jug lids, be sure to have a tall glass of milk.
Container lids of all kinds of food
items stored in zip-lock bags,
sorted into two sets of nine lids
each, in seven colors or sizes
Index cards | Marker
Math is abstract. You have to imagine the quantity
that the written symbols - the numbers - really mean. Numbers represent
quantities, because it wouldn't be very convenient to count out quantities that
It's a good thing, too: can you imagine paying $10,000
for a car, and having to count out 10,000 dollar bills? Instead, we can write a
check or use a credit card, and transfer that amount of money without having to
physically do it.
But as the numbers get bigger, it gets harder for
kids to visualize their size. They tend to lump together all numbers that are
beyond, say, three digits. They have a hard time distinguishing between a
million and a billion and so on. Some can't understand how the "1" in 1,999,999
is still a bigger number than all the "9's" in that number.
So here's a fun activity you can do with two
children, to teach place value, as well as recycle and reduce your amount of
trash a little bit!
Save lids, and have your relatives and friends save
them for you, too. Always wash lids in hot, soapy water. You can put in a few
drops of bleach, too, to make sure the food is all gone and the lids are all
Let dry. Sort by color, size or however else makes
sense. If you have nine lids in each of seven categories, you can do place
values into the millions.
Put each category of lids into a zip-lock bag that
you have labeled for its place value. Try to group and label by size. For
example, extra-large red peanut-butter jar lids could represent "millions," large
green Parmesan cheese lids could represent "hundred thousands," and small blue
water-bottle caps could represent "ones."
If you have two complete sets, then you can have two
children play this game at a time, but with one set, you can keep one student
Then write several numbers of all different sizes
with marker pen on index cards. To play, start with one- or two-digit numbers
and work your way up to the seven-digit challenges.
Put the labeled zip-lock bags in reach, and demonstrate
how to do one of the problems. Discuss place value, and how numbers can
represent much larger quantities, depending on where they are placed within a
Then ask the students to pull out the right number of
lids for each place value. Whoever gets it done correctly first gets a point.
The first one to 10 wins - or however you want to structure the game.