Reading the Code to Any Place

Focus Identifying the total number of tens and hundreds in a four-digit number



he base ten code is very powerful. The numeral 1873 tells us that there are 1873 ones, and also that there are 1 thousand, 8 hundreds, 7 tens, and 3 ones. It tells us as well that there are 187 tens and 3 ones, or 18 hundreds and 73 ones. In this sense, we can read the number to any particular place. If we stop at the tens place, we know the number of tens. If we stop at the hundreds place, we know the number of hundreds. Knowing that we can read the number to any point is part of understanding the base ten code. Such knowledge can be extremely helpful when we are estimating, rounding, computing, working with decimals, and using the metric system of measurement. A somewhat simpler idea is that we can write the code to a particular place.That is, to write a number such as 24 tens, we add a zero so that the digits 2 and 4 end in the tens place. Since this idea is more familiar to students, we begin here.

® Writing the Code to Any Place
Students have previously predicted the base ten representation for a group of single blocks. They should also be able to predict the base ten representation, or code, for a group of blocks-of-10 or blocks-of-100. Ask,

If we have 32 single blocks on the Place mat, what number does that show? What if we have 32 blocks-of-10? 32 blocks-of-100? How are each of these numbers alike? How are they different?
Have students place the blocks on the Place mat, packing as needed, and set the digits. Provide several similar examples until students can predict the answer without packing the blocks. Then ask,

How do you write the number for 27 tens? 47 hundreds?
Encourage students to articulate their thinking. The basic idea is that blocksof-10 or blocks-of-100 can be viewed as single entities. To communicate that there are 32 tens, we write the digits 3 and 2 so that they end in the tens place (320). Similarly, to indicate 32 hundreds, we write the digits 3 and 2 so that they end in the hundreds place (3200).


® Predicting How Many Tens and Hundreds
Have students show a number such as 260 on the Place mat, set the Digit Flip Cards, and record the number on paper. Ask, If we unpack to blocks-of-10, how many will there be? (Note that this is not the same question as, “What is the digit in the tens place?” to which the answer is 6.) Students can unpack or simply lift the covers from the blocks-of-100 and identify the 26 tens. Have students consider several more examples, all with a zero in the ones place. When students can readily identify the number of blocks-of-10, have them consider a number with a non-zero digit in the ones place, such as 154. Students should recognize that there are 15 blocks-of-10 and 4 singles. After considering several more numbers in this way, ask students to predict the answer in advance and unpack to check. Repeat the process with numbers such as 1200 and 1172, this time asking about the number of hundreds. Encourage students to discuss ways to find the answers without unpacking the blocks. Some students will talk about the number of tens in each hundred, or the number of hundreds in each thousand. Eventually students will discover that they can find the answer by reading the code through the tens or hundreds places. The fact that the blocks are identical except for size may help students to understand the simplicity of this task. If the question is about the number of tens, then they count tens rather than ones. The Digi-Block model for 230 is the same as 23, only bigger. The visual similarity between blocks of different sizes helps That is, 230 is constructed from blocks-ofstudents understand reading the number code to a particular place: 23 tens looks like 23 ones, only larger and one place 10 in exactly the same way that 23 is conto the left. structed from single blocks. Thus, it must contain 23 blocks of 10. To emphasize this point, have students compare additional pairs of “similar numbers” such as 420 and 42. Finally, to help students extend their thinking, ask about larger numbers.

How many tens are there in 12,760? How many hundreds are there in 113,300?


Practicing Key Ideas
Estimate and Check
Provide a large collection of blocks-of-10. Students estimate three things: the number of blocks-of-10 in the collection, the number of blocks-of-100 they could pack, and the number of singles they could unpack. They record their estimates, count the blocks-of-10, and decide if their estimates were close.

Number Puzzles
Students solve number puzzles with clues such as these:

I am a three-digit number. I have 27 tens. I have 5 ones. What number am I? When unpacked to blocks-of-100, there are 13 of them. When unpacked to blocks-of-10, there are 138 of them. There are 6 single blocks. What number do I show?
Students then write their own clues to make puzzles that they trade with one another or place in a classroom “Number Puzzle” book.

Assessing Learning
1. Have the student show 297 on the Place mat. Ask,

If you unpack to blocks-of-10, how many will there be?
Does the student • identify the number correctly? • unpack or predict the answer? 2. Show the students the numeral 1540. Ask,

How many tens are there in this number? How many hundreds are there in this number?
Does the student • correctly tell the number of tens? • correctly tell the number of hundreds?


3. Show a collection of 15 blocks-of-10. Ask,

What number do these blocks show?
Does the student • answer correctly? • pack the blocks or predict the answer? 4. Ask,

How do you write the numeral for 325 tens? 73 hundreds?
Does the student • correctly write the numeral for tens? • correctly write the numeral for hundreds?


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