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How to Teach Tens and Ones to Kindergarten

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First comes counting, then comes adding. The next stop? Place value! Learn how to teach tens and ones to Kindergarten.

How to Teach Tens and Ones to Kindergarten Students

What Is Tens and Ones Place Value?

We have 10 digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. These ten digits can be arranged in different sequences to stand for different values. For example, in the number 15, the digit 5 has a value of 5 ones. By contrast, in the number 50, the digit 5 has a value of 5 tens. This is because of place value. The value of the number 5 depends on its place in the number.

This concept can be tricky for young learners, but it is a pivotal concept as it lays the foundation for addition and multiplication. 

Fun Ways to Teach Tens and Ones to Kindergarten

Teaching place value is easy and fun when you a) make it highly visual and b) use manipulatives. Kindergarteners learn best when they incorporate all their senses. Use these activities to teach place value. 

Step 1: Make Tens

Give each child a hunk of playdough (or floral foam) and ten uncooked spaghetti noodles. Use the playdough as a base and stick the spaghetti noodles in straight up. Then hand out a large pile of Cheerios.

Ask the child to count out ten Cheerios and thread them on a noodle. How many Cheerios does he have on the noodle? (10) How many groups of ten does he have? (1)

Now add 10 Cheerios to the next spaghetti noodle. Repeat the process. How many Cheerios? (20) How many tens? (2)

This activity teaches that numbers can be expressed in two ways: as a number of individuals (ones) and as a number of groups of tens (tens).

Tens and Ones to Kindergarten Students

Step 2: Use Windows

Trace two index cards on the center of a piece of cardstock and cut out the rectangles so the cardstock has two “windows.” Label the window on the left “tens” and the window on the right “ones.”

Now label two sets of 10 index cards with the digits 0-9. Set out 1 linking cube and place the index card labeled “1” in the ones window.

Ask the child, “How many is that?” (1)

Help her as necessary to make and show the numbers 2-9 by snapping on linking cubes and switching out the index cards.

When you get to the number ten, show the child how the digit 1 is placed in the tens window now. “When the 1 was in the other window it meant 1 single cube. Now that it is in the tens window it means 1 set of ten linking cubes.” Repeat with additional numbers.

Step 3: Make Your Own Manipulatives

This simple activity helps reinforce grouping. Make bundles of ten toothpicks and secure them with a rubber band. Screw ten nuts on a long bolt. Thread ten beads on half a pipe cleaner and twist to form a ring of ten.

Whatever manipulative you choose, make 10 sets of ten and keep aside some loose ones (loose beads, toothpicks, and nuts) for ones.

Step 4: Place Value Graphic

Divide a paper in half and label the left side “tens” and right side “ones.” Write a number like 23 on a whiteboard.

Then, using your homemade place value manipulatives, have the child place the number of tens in the tens part of the paper (for example, 2 bundles of toothpicks) and the number of ones in the ones part of the paper (three individual toothpicks). Repeat with other numbers.

Tens and Ones to Kindergarten Students

Step 5: Use Money

Coins are a wonderful way to touch and feel tens and ones place value. You can give your child 34 pennies and ask him to form groups of ten. How many tens can he make? (3)

Exchange those for dimes. 3 dimes + 4 pennies equals 34 cents. That is the same as saying 3 tens and 4 ones make 34.

Teaching Tens and Ones

If you want to know the secret of how to teach tens and ones to Kindergarten, this is it: make it as interactive as possible. The more they see, hear, and feel the concept, the sooner it will click.

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