Saying big numbers can be difficult for kids, especially numbers with 5 or more digits. Students who find saying big numbers difficult may not understand that numbers are said in groups or ‘families’ of three; ones, thousands and millions and that the comma or space in numbers represent a place value word. They become confused because they don’t understand how the ‘families’ of numbers work, or how to say these numbers out loud.
You probably have these students in you classroom, they are the ones that will say big numbers in a string, “seven, one, three, two, six, five” instead of seven hundred and thirteen thousand two hundred and sixty five. Help your students become confident at saying big numbers with this cool trick! Scroll to the end of the post for your FREE printables for teaching numeracy.
Scroll to the end of the post to ‘RESOURCES’ to get the freebie, the link is not in the pictures.
Saying Big Numbers Using Colour Coding
Latest research into learning maths, by Professor Jo Boaler, emphasises the importance of students not learning maths through memorization. In her books Mindset Mathematics the research shows that students will do better in maths if they are given the opportunity to visualize, play and investigate the maths concepts they are learning. She talks about how colour-coding can help students visualise number patterns which helps them to connect everything together and build a deep understanding of mathematical concepts.
Nifty Trick For Saying Big Numbers
This nifty trick using colour-coding will help your student to visualise and connect numerals to number names and place value. It’s a great activity to use in your math rotations, or as a warm up. Your kids will think it’s FUN and will love using coloured pens and highlighters to help them learn math. We have created a nifty little free printable (scroll to the bottom of the post to get it) to go with it. Use it to get the kids started and then get the them to create their own versions!
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Scroll to the end of the post to get link to freebie!
Comma or NO Comma?
Many countries use a comma to separate numbers but some, including Australia, are no longer using the comma, they just leave a space between the numbers. It worth a discussion so that students don’t think the comma in numbers is the same as the comma in writing! I mention both ways so that students can understand place value in a range of contexts and don’t get stumped if they see it a different way. (Read more about gaps and commas in numbers in this article).
- Start by writing a a 3 digit number in black pen, missing out the comma.
- Use the prompt: “The name of the comma in this 3 digit number is ‘Thousand’ “, use this to help you read the place value of any big numbers.
- Go back to the original number and add the comma using a different colour, in this case we used pink.
- The next step is to model to the students how to read the number from left to right. “Say the name of the number in front of the comma.” In this case it’s one, write this down in words under the digit, using black pen to match the colours.
5. Next point to the comma and say the name of the comma, “Thousand”, writing this down at the same time.
6. Continue modelling how to say the number names of the rest of the digits in the number. In this case they are zeros so they are not said… an interesting discussion to also have with the students.
7. Now run it al together writing it down as you go.
8. Now, build larger numbers in the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands.
- “The name of the pink comma is ‘thousand’.”
- “Read the number in front of the comma (10).”
- “Say the name of the comma (thousand)
9. Repeat the process for 100,000.
Dice Game For Saying Big Numbers
The next step for your students is to practice until they become fluent and confident. We created a fun dice game which we use with think boards. To make the big numbers we took a medicine/pill box and adapted it to help students say big numbers using colour coding. Get the instruction HERE
- Here Is the Link To The Saying Big Numbers Printables FREEBIE
- Colour Coding Dice Instructions & Think Board Templates FREEBIE
- Teaching Place Value – Free Unit Plan from AMSi Schools on Place Value PDF
- Junior Learning Place Value Dominoes Educational Action Games
- EAI Education EAI Education Place Value Expanded Notation Strips – Ones to Millions: Demonstration S
- EAI Education QuietShape Foam Place Value Disks Thousandths to Millions: Set of 300
- EAI Education Math Stacks Place Value to Millions Grades 3-5
Really Useful Resources For Teaching Mathematics