Exploring Place Value Lesson with M&Ms


A delicious and fun place value lesson where students learn to read and write numbers less than one million in standard and expanded notation and identify the place value of each digit in a multi-digit numeral.

Australian Curriculum Links:

  • Year 4 – Recognise, represent and order numbers to at least tens of thousands (ACMNA072)
  • Year 4 -Apply place value to partition, rearrange and regroup numbers to at least tens of thousands to assist calculations and solve problems (ACMNA073)


  1. Have the students copy the attached chart from the overhead (or you can copy ahead of time and distribute).
  2. Discuss the value of places of digits up to 1 million and reiterate the power of zero.
  1. Once the students have the above chart, give each child 8-10 M&Ms. Instruct the students not to eat the M&Ms yet, but to put them in order from greatest to least using the assigned values on the chart. The teacher will need to model this process on the overhead as well.
  2. Have the students build their number and write it below their chart. (Some students may need the help of a place value chart to do this). Make sure that all the students have built and identified their number correctly. Have each student practice saying their number correctly to their team members.
  3. Using the number the teacher is modeling with, the students and teacher will discuss and answer the following prompts:
    1. Write the number in expanded form.
    2. Write the number in written form.
    3. Identify the number in the ten thousand’s place.
    4. Identify the value of the number in the ten thousand’s place.
    5. How many hundreds are in the number?
    6. What is 1,000 more than this number?
    7. What is 10 less than this number?
  4. Discuss any misconceptions before having the students work independently.


  1. Bring students back to the floor and discuss their work. Focus on place value questions where they have to think (E.g. what would happen if there were 6 thousands in the thousands place and I had to take away 9 thousands…?)



  • Worbook samples of numbers in expanded form.
  • Pictures showing what they are working on.


  • 1 bag of M & Ms
  • An overhead transparency with the assigned values for each colour
  • Pencil and paper for each child
  • Colour chart



Courtesy of Amy Bullins at  http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/3013


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