Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Place Value with Goldfish Crackers- freebie!

One of my favorite things about the blogging is that the ideas of other teachers inspire me.

Sometime last year, I saw Mel's post at Stapler's Strategies about using Goldfish Colors to teach place value, and I had an epiphany.

See, in college, they wanted us to teach kids how to use place value with M&M's to work as a 'code' for groups of 10's. It took us college students a few classes to figure out what we were supposed to do, so quite frankly, I didn't feel well equipped to guide my students to discover the system. But I do think it's incredibly important for students to understand what place value actually means, and be able to model it in different ways.

Fish are PERFECT for this understanding.

I tell my kids this story.

Once, there was a little fish. What should we name him? (This year, my students went with "Fishy.") He was a nice, friendly little fish. In fact, he was so friendly that he got to be very popular. Wherever he went, the others liked to follow.

Unfoooortunately, though (and I make this part really dramatic), when ten little Fishies get together, they tend to attract a bigger fish. (And I make this guy swim out from behind my easel, very dramatically.)

Annnd this green fish isn't a meanie, but he's hungry. And lucky for him, his stomach holds TEN- and only, exactly TEN- little Fishies. So he gobbles them up. What should we call this fish? (This year, they went with Albert. Hehe.)

But this green fish- well, he's also a very nice, friendly fish. In fact, he's so friendly that he's very popular. Wherever he goes, the others like to follow.

Unfoooortunately, though, when ten Alberts get together, they tend to attract an even bigger fish! (And another one 'swims' out.)

And of course, this red fish isn't a meanie, but he's hungry. And lucky for him, his stomach holds TEN- and only, exactly TEN- Alberts. So he gobbles them up. What should we call this fish? (Bob.)

But let me tell you about Bob. He's a very nice, friendly fish. In fact... (annnd by now, the kids are already saying "uh-oh!")

We go on with the story. I like to do the ones, tens, hundreds in a day, and then, for 3rd grade, we did thousands the next day. Putting a little magnet tape on the back means that your lovely fish can hang out on the board, too.

Next year, I will probably do the biggest fish in orange, because of my next part of the activity.

I give kids some Goldfish Colors and a laminated place value mat. (Before I laminate, I either color in or let them color in the little fish at the top to match our "code.")

Then, I call out some numbers, and I let them model the numbers with Goldfish and write the numbers at the bottom of the mat with dry erase markers.

I don't do this to replace place value blocks, but just as another way of practicing. For some reason, the analogy of the other smaller fish being in their bellies seems to help with understanding.

You can grab the place value mats for Goldfish Place Value as a freebie! (I included one with just ones, tens, hundreds, too.) Just click on the picture, and please say thanks if you grab it!

Thanks again to Mel for the inspiration! :)


  1. That is the cutest way to show place value I think I have ever seen. I'm thinking 4th graders might even enjoy it as a review! Pinning :)

    Fun in Room 4B

  2. What a great way to do this! I'm pinning so I can come back in a couple months for my place value unit. Thanks a BUNCH!!

    The Learning Tree

  3. I love this idea foe teaching place value. Thanks so much for sharing!

    :) Nicole
    Tadpole Tidbits

  4. What a cute idea! I happily downloaded it to use in my classroom! Thank you!
    I found your blog through your comment on mine. I'm glad we hooked up!
    Where Seconds Count

  5. What a great idea to help my firsties understand base-10 and place value. Thanks for sharing!

  6. My district mandated that all 1st grades teach place value in SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER! I will use your idea to review this year and use it to introduce it in Sept next year! Thanks for sharing!!! :)


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