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4 Essential Aspects of Teaching Decimal Place Value

Before we even start teaching decimal place value, we must explain to students that the decimal point is a tiny dot that plays a large role in decimal numbers. It acts as a separator between the whole number part and the fractional part of a decimal number.

The position of the decimal point determines the value of each digit after it. Differentiating whole and decimal numbers would be challenging without the decimal point. Students must realize that the decimal point matters because it helps us understand and work with values that fall between whole numbers, allowing for more accurate measurements and calculations.

Teaching Decimal Place Value with the Role of Digits

When teaching decimal place value, we must emphasize that each digit has a specific role and value. Remind students that the value of a digit is determined by its position in the number. All digits to the left of the decimal point are whole numbers. Everything to the right of the decimal point is part of a whole number. The first place to the right is the tenths place, which represents one-tenth of a whole unit. Similarly, the hundredths place represents one-hundredth of a whole unit, and so on. The digit’s position tells us how much it contributes to the overall value of the decimal number. 

Place Value Chart for Decimals

The place value chart for decimal numbers is a great visual tool for teaching decimal place value. It can help students understand the value of each digit in a decimal number. It is similar to the place value chart for whole numbers but includes additional positions to the right of the decimal point.

The chart is divided into columns, each representing a specific place value such as ones, tenths, hundredths, thousandths, etc. Starting from the rightmost column, each position is ten times smaller than the one to its left. Teaching decimal place value with the chart allows us to easily identify and determine the value of each digit based on its position, making it easier to read and work with decimal numbers.

Reading and Writing Decimal Numbers

6 Steps for Reading Decimals

When teaching decimal place value, we need to teach students how to read decimals correctly, and I always follow a 6 step process:

  1. Start from the left and identify the whole number part of the decimal number, if any. This part represents the whole units or counts.
  2. Locate the decimal point. It separates the whole number part from the fractional part.
  3. Move to the right of the decimal point and read each digit individually.
  4. State the place value of each digit as you read it. For example, the digit in the tenths place represents one-tenth, the digit in the hundredths place represents one-hundredth, and so on.
  5. Continue reading the digits until you reach the end of the decimal number.
  6. If there are trailing zeros after the last digit, you can skip them unless nonzero digits follow them.

Avoiding Common Mistakes When Reading & Writing Decimals

As we are teaching decimal place value, we want to teach students how to avoid common mistakes when reading and writing decimals. I like to remind students of the following:

  • Pay attention to the position of the decimal point. Placing it incorrectly can change the value of the decimal number significantly.
  • Be careful with trailing zeros. If a decimal number ends with zeros, include them when reading and writing to maintain accuracy.
  • Double-check the place value of each digit. Misinterpreting the position of a digit can lead to errors in understanding the value of the decimal number.
  • Read and write decimals slowly and meticulously. Rushing through the process increases the likelihood of making mistakes or skipping important details.
  • Use place value charts or visual aids to reinforce understanding and maintain consistency in reading and writing decimals.
  • Proofread your work. Take the time to review your written decimal numbers and ensure they align with the intended value.

Students can improve accuracy and confidence when reading and writing decimals by being mindful of these common mistakes and implementing these strategies.

Comparing and Ordering Decimal Numbers

Strategies for Comparing and Ordering Decimals

When teaching decimal place value, we must teach students how to compare decimal numbers. Several strategies can be used to determine their relative values. Here are some helpful techniques:

  • Align the decimal points: Start by aligning the decimal points of the numbers. This allows for a clear comparison of the digits in corresponding places.
  • Compare digit by digit: Begin from the leftmost digit and compare each corresponding pair. Start with the whole number part and then move to the right. The greater digit in the leftmost differing place value determines the larger number.
  • Use place value reasoning: Consider the place value of the digits. The digits in positions further to the left have a greater impact on the value of the number. Focus on the leftmost differing place value and determine the larger number based on the digit in that position.
  • Convert to fractions: If needed, convert the decimal numbers to fractions. This can make it easier to compare the values by finding a common denominator and comparing the numerators.

Teaching students these strategies makes comparing decimal numbers more manageable, enabling a clear understanding.

Rounding Decimal Numbers

Real-World Decimal Rounding

Decimal rounding is a practical skill with real-world applications, and if students know that upfront, they may be more likely to see the importance of learning it, which could make teaching decimal place value easier.

In everyday situations, we often encounter measurements or quantities that require us to round decimal numbers. For instance, when measuring ingredients for a recipe, we may need to round a measurement to the nearest whole or half unit. In financial transactions, rounding may be necessary when dealing with monetary values. 

Rounding also comes into play when estimating distances, time, or any other numerical values that are not required to be precise. By rounding decimal numbers, we can simplify calculations, make practical estimates, and communicate information more efficiently. Mastering real-world decimal rounding helps us navigate the complexities of daily life and apply mathematical concepts in practical scenarios.

Rules & Strategies for Rounding Decimals

When teaching decimal place value, rounding decimals can get students caught up. There are some rules and strategies to follow that I like to share with my students.

  • Identify the rounding digit: Determine the digit to the right of the desired rounding position. This digit will help determine how to round the decimal.
  • Look at the rounding digit: If the rounding digit is 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4, round down and keep the digit in the rounding position unchanged. All digits to the right of the rounding position become 0. If the rounding digit is 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9, round up and increase the digit in the rounding position by 1. All digits to the right of the rounding position become 0.
  • Be mindful of tie-breaking situations: In cases where the rounding digit is exactly 5, round to the nearest even number. This strategy, called “round half to even,” helps maintain fairness and balance in rounding.
  • Follow specific rounding rules if provided: In certain situations, guidelines for rounding may be specified, such as always rounding up or down regardless of the rounding digit.

By applying these rules and strategies, your students can confidently round decimal numbers and achieve the desired precision or estimation in various real-life scenarios.

Are you not ready to teach students about decimals but need help teaching place value of whole numbers? Click here to check out the blog.

Looking for resources to make teaching decimal place value easier? Check out the resources I have below.

Decimal Place Value Task Cards

Rounding, Comparing, Adding and Subtracting Decimals Math Notes