Guide to Place Value in the National Curriculum – what to teach at Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 and the top resources and activities you’ll need to help your primary pupils understand units, tens, hundreds and thousands.

Yes, place value again. Doesn’t it seem like every term at KS1 or KS2 starts with place value? There’s a reason for that. It underpins everything. So here’s a ready reckoner for you of how the new(ish) primary national curriculum breaks down place value across the Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 Programmes of Study for Maths with tried and tested activities for each year group.

Place value relationships are a crucial concept for KS1 and KS2 pupils to grasp, alongside place value with decimals, multiplication and division. And guess what, it’s one of  the most often requested topics for our specialist Maths tutors to teach in their one-to-one lessons, even at Year 5 and Year 6.

Place Value in Year 1

Non-statutory guidance
Pupils begin to recognise place value in numbers beyond 20 by reading, writing, counting and comparing numbers up to 100, supported by objects and pictorial representations.

Place value activities
Wondering how to teach place value in Key Stage 1? Year 1 pupils may start to recognise place value when working with coins and may be explained in more explicit terms using beads. Use strings of beads in sets of ten – alternating colours of beads every ten – and then having some single beads at the end. Count how many sets of ten and then how many ones.

Place Value in Year 2

Programme of study
Pupils should be taught to recognise the place value of each digit in a two-digit number (tens, ones). Pupils should be taught to use place value and number facts to solve problems.

Non-statutory guidance

Recording addition and subtraction in columns supports place value and prepares for formal written methods with larger numbers. They connect the 10 multiplication table to place value, and the 5 multiplication table to the divisions on the clock face.

Place value activities

In Year 2, place value teaching is more explicit in the Programme of Study with pupils expected to recognise place value and to apply the knowledge to addition and subtraction.

Simple place value cards are invaluable at this stage – a classic resource which is easy to use and begins to also introduce the idea of partitioning large numbers.

Column addition also helps to embed the concept of place value when working on sums. You can also now find a number of online free versions of this resource which is great for use on the Interactive White Board.

A set of place value cards is one of the essential hands on resources every classroom should have. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Hands on Maths Manipulatives, for the other 14!

Banish the misconception 'to times a number by ten, add zero' forever with our quick and easy Place Value Concertina Resource

Classroom resources free

Place Value Concertina Resource

Includes guide on how to make, and use with your class

Place Value in Year 3

Programme of study
Pupils should be taught to recognise the place value of each digit in a three-digit number (hundreds, tens, ones).

Non-statutory guidance
They use larger numbers to at least 1000, applying partitioning related to place value using varied and increasingly complex problems, building on work in year 2 (for example, 146 = 100 + 40 and 6, 146 = 130 + 16).

Pupils use their understanding of place value and partitioning, and practise using columnar addition and subtraction with increasingly large numbers up to three digits to become fluent. Pupils connect tenths to place value, decimal measures and to division by 10.

Place value activities
Again in Year 3, the place value cards are essential for embedding the concepts when applying to addition and subtraction.

Or try the Place Value Concertina, another excellent free resource.  Ask each child to think of their own 3-digit number in the concertina, then work with their partner to add one number to the other or subtract one from the other. The concertina will also help to introduce decimal places into the mix and ensure that their sound understanding of place value continues into this much trickier area.

You may also like these place value dice, a great resource for children to find new numbers to use in their own addition and subtraction problems. These dice are also introducing reverse partitioning, as pupils need to take the values of the dice and correctly place them when writing the number down.

Place Value in Year 4

Programme of study
Pupils should be taught to recognise the place value of each digit in a four-digit number (thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones). Pupils should be taught to read Roman numerals to 100 (I to C) and know that over time, the numeral system changed to include the concept of zero and place value.

Pupils should be taught to use place value, known and derived facts to multiply and divide mentally, including: multiplying by 0 and 1; dividing by 1; multiplying together three numbers.

Non-statutory guidance
Using a variety of representations, including measures, pupils become fluent in the order and place value of numbers beyond 1000, including counting in tens and hundreds, and maintaining fluency in other multiples through varied and frequent practice.

Pupils should connect hundredths to tenths and place value and decimal measure.

Place value activities
By Year 4 the concepts taught in previous years should be fluent and well embedded. Now is the time to ensure no child is left with any misconceptions! After Year 4, it is assumed in the Programme of Study that the explicit teaching of place value is no longer needed and that pupils can fluently apply their knowledge to problems involving all four number operations.

Again, the Place Value Concertina is a great way to test the misconception especially when multiplying and dividing by 10

As well as place value cards for partitioning, you can use dominos with children who are finding the concept tricky – this will show that even one digit numbers can be partitioned i.e. 5 and 3 = 8 using a domino. Then move this up to the tens and hundreds. It is an important time to work on a number of versions of rounding up or down for all operations.

For example, when solving 32 x 12 they may find it easier to partition this and work out 30 x 10 or 32 x 10 to start with. Having a sound understanding of place value and partitioning will help immensely with mental Maths.

Place Value in Year 5

Non-statutory guidance
Pupils identify the place value in large whole numbers. Pupils use their knowledge of place value and multiplication and division to convert between standard units.

Place value activities

As mentioned above, there is now no explicit teaching of place value in Year 5 – and no mention at all in Year 6. The guidance mentions it twice and assumes the knowledge is there and being used. There is still plenty of time for revision however. The use of money in Year 5 is particularly good to help any children still struggling – there are many ways to motivate using money by their age and problems involving buying their favourite items at the shop can help as well as working out how much pocket money they prefer – they usually have a firm grasp of bargaining for extra money by now!

Enjoyed this? Read our blog on the 20 Maths Strategies (KS2) that Guarantee Progress for All Pupils.  

Jodie Lopez , Former Teacher , EdTech Consultant