What is place value?

What is place value?


You will have learned place value, perhaps without realising. You use it every time you read a number.

A number is written using digits. In 236, the digits are 2, 3 and 6. The place or position of each digit in the number gives it its value.

  • In 236 the place value of the ‘2’ is 2 hundreds
  • In 623 the place value of the ‘2’ is 2 tens
  • In 632 the place value of the ‘2’ is 2 ones
  • You may have learned about ‘hundreds, tens and units’ when you were at school. Now teachers often use ‘ones’ instead of units, because ‘unit’ can have other meanings, for example a unit of measurement.

    How do children learn place value?

    In key stage 1 children begin to read and write two-digit numbers and recognise the place value of each digit.

    They represent two-digit numbers with tens and ones blocks:

    and in place value tables:

     Tens  Ones
    5 3

    and begin to partition numbers into tens and ones:

    In key stage 2 they work with larger numbers, starting with hundreds:

    Hundreds Tens Ones
    1 2 4

    and thousands:

    Thousands Hundreds Tens Ones
    1 2 4

    and then up to millions:

    Millions  Hundred Thousands Ten Thousands Thousands Hundreds Tens Ones
    4 5 7 2 1 8

    ‘four million, five hundred and seventy-two thousand, one hundred and eight’

    Decimal place value

    In key stage 2 children also begin to recognise and use place value of decimals , up to three decimal places.

    Ones . tenths hundredths thousandths
    3 . 1 7

    ‘three point one zero seven’

    An understanding of place value helps your child answer questions like this:

  • Write the number shown on this abacus
  • Write 208 in words
  • Write 5.26 in words
  • Write three hundred and twenty-one in digits
  • Which is larger: 3027 or 3152?
  • Both numbers have 3 thousands. Look at the next place value place.

    3027 has 0 hundreds

    3152 has 1 hundred

    So 3152 is larger than 3027

  • Make the largest possible number with these digits
  • Put the largest digit in the highest place value: 7521

  • Make the smallest possible number with these digits
  • Put the smallest digit in the highest place value: 1257

  • What is the value of the 7 in this number: 3720?
  • 7 hundred

  • Work out the number that is one hundred more than 3419
  • Work out the number that is 1000 less than 76210
  • Practice at home

    Read numbers you see around you with your child – for example house numbers in your street, car number plates, newspaper headlines, advertisements.

    Compare numbers in real life contexts – for example which is less: £27 or £35?

    Which is the largest football crowd: 5300 or 10200?

    Practice spellings of numbers 1-20, the ‘tens’ 30, 40, 50, … and hundred, thousand, etc


    To practice place value with your child, Collins Maths Targeted Practice Workbooks are a great tool that target every topic covered in each school year. They include plenty of repeated practice to help your child do their best in Maths.


    This article has been written by Katherine Pate.