Place Value Pick Up

Looking for a colorful way to practice place value concepts? This hands-on learning activity is sure to leave its mark on math memories.

  • 1.

    Grouping objects in tens and ones is a foundation-building activity for understanding the base ten number system. Begin by giving groups of children a bowl full of crayons (or markers or colored pencils). Be sure there are 40 or more crayons in each bowl, but a different amount in each bowl.

  • 2.

    Ask students to think of ways the crayons could be grouped. Allow time for children to group crayons in different ways. Encourage students to engage in dialogue with one another. Gather grouping strategies in a list on chart paper or white board.

  • 3.

    Next ask students to think of ways the crayons could be counted. Encourage dialogue. Gather counting strategies.

  • 4.

    Review the strategies for grouping and counting with the class. Inquire about students’ understanding of the concepts of grouping and counting.

  • 5.

    Reform groups and ask students how grouping the crayons into sets of tens could help with counting. Allow students to talk about this idea and experiment with it.

  • 6.

    Provide Crayola Dry-Erase Crayons and individual dry-erase boards for student groups to illustrate the results of this kind of grouping in pictures and words. Repeat this step several times, passing the bowls from group to group to allow them to practice grouping and counting.

  • 7.

    Following the learning activity, invite children to write a math reflection using Crayola Colored Pencils in a math journal or on writing paper. Ask the students to respond to an open-ended prompt, such as, “Explain how you counted and sorted crayons today.” Encourage students to respond using sentences and pictures.


  • LA: Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
  • LA: Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.
  • MATH: Extend the counting sequence.
  • MATH: Understand place value.
  • VA: Students will initiate making works of art and design by experimenting, imagining and identifying content.


  • Apply this concept using a variety of other materials, such as beads, cereal, sequins, foam shapes, or pennies. Talk about how ten pennies (ones) is equal to a dime (a ten) in the American money system.
  • Provide Crayola Dry-Erase Crayons and individual dry-erase boards for students to draw sets of objects (bunches of little dots, triangles, or squares) for a partner to count and group by drawing circles around sets of tens. Partners can then write the numeral representing the number of objects grouped and counted. Students can check each other’s work.
  • Extend this activity to include grouping 10 tens to form a new unit called a hundred. Or extend to counting by tens. Group and count by fives or twos to practice skip-counting.
  • Share the picture book Sir Cumference and All the King’s Tens: A Math Adventure by Cindy Neuschwander and Wayne Geehan to introduce a real-life math problem involving seating guests at tables of ten. Present a similar problem to your class for them to solve constructively and cooperatively: What if all of the children at the school showed up at your family picnic? How many chairs would you need? How many tables of ten would you need?