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Number & place value


Helping our children to tell the difference between numbers is a great first step in learning maths at home. However, it’s just as important to help them understand what each digit is worth – the value of the number depending on its place.

This might sound complicated, but we have lots of tips and activities to allow you to get it right. Before you start your learning at home, these two helpful videos will give you some clear definitions to work with:

What is number?

Get a simple definition of the concept of number and the difference between cardinal, ordinal, and nominal numbers with this fun animation. 

What is place value?

Watch our fun animation for a simple definition of this early maths skill.

Maths glossary

Use these quick links or explore our jargon buster for simple definitions and examples of mathematical terms.

  • Hundred squares (or number squares) are visual images used to help children grasp the concept of number and place value.
  • Number lines are visual images used to help children grasp the basic number relationships. Children will use number lines to count forwards and backwards, in, for example, 1s, 2s and 10s, depending on the scale of the number line.
  • Partitioning means to split a number into smaller chunks, for example 58 = 50 + 8. It is often used to make calculating easier.
  • Place value is the value of a digit depending on its position within a number, for example in 378, there are 3 hundreds, 7 tens and 8 ones.

Search our education glossary

How to help your child at home

You don’t need to be an expert to support your child with maths! Here are four simple but effective ways to help your child develop their understanding of number and place value:


1. Play counting games

Board games often show ordered numbers on tracks or grids. Make sure these numbers are clearly visible and count out loud as you progress around the board. This will help your child quickly get a sense of what the numbers mean.

Dice can also help your child recognise number patterns quickly. For example, a pair of dice is a great way of showing your child doubles, or what it means for a number to be 1 bigger than another number.

Games like ‘What’s the time, Mr Wolf?’ and songs like ‘Ten Green Bottles’ can help build early counting skills.


2. Break down numbers

Look for numbers in the world around you and encourage your child to break them into parts. Breaking numbers up like this is called ‘partitioning’.

Point out a number and ask your child how many ones/tens/hundreds/thousands it has. Lots of children find this easier with physical objects, like stones or sticks. For example, they could group sticks into groups of ten.


3. Have counting races

Choose a starting number and a multiple to count up by. For example, you could start at 12 and count in steps of 4.

Take turns to say the next number in the sequence (12, 16, 20, 24, 28, etc.). Set a timer and see what number you can reach in one minute. This kind of game could also work as a bit of healthy competition between siblings or friends!


4. Ten questions

To really understand numbers, we want children to investigate place value through language. A simple game of guessing a number in ten questions is a great way of exploring mathematical language whilst developing their reasoning skills. 


Want more?

To help your child’s learning further, you may want to watch some of the videos included within our dedicated maths library. If you’re looking for more ideas to support learning at home, head over to our maths blog to explore articles full of top tips and fun activities.

What your child will learn at school

For more information about your child’s learning in a particular year group, use this handy drop down menu:

Number and place value in Year 1 (age 5–6)

In Year 1, children will work with numbers up to 100, counting on or back from any number in steps of 1, 2, 5, or 10. This includes:

    • reading and writing numerals to 100 and number names to 20 in words
    • using objects and number lines to represent numbers
    • finding one more and one less than any number.

More information and activity ideas for Year 1

Number and place value in Year 2 (age 6–7)

In Year 2, children will recognise tens and ones in two-digit numbers (for example, ’23’ has 2 tens and 3 ones) and will be able to order numbers up to 100. This includes:

    • counting in steps of 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10
    • using more than (>), less than (<), and equals (=) symbols to compare numbers
    • using place value and number facts to solve problems.

 More information and activity ideas for Year 2

Number and place value in Year 3 (age 7–8)

In Year 3, children will recognise hundreds, tens, and ones in three-digit numbers (for example, ‘423’ has 4 hundreds, 2 tens, and 3 ones). This includes:

    • counting in steps of 4, 8, 50, and 100
    • reading, writing, comparing, and ordering numbers to 1000
    • finding 10 or 100 more or less than a number.

More information and activity ideas for Year 3

Number and place value in Year 4 (age 8–9)

In Year 4, children will order and compare numbers beyond 1000 using place value in four-digit numbers (for example, ‘1428’ has 1 thousand, 4 hundreds, 2 tens, and 8 ones). This includes:

    • counting in steps of 6, 7, 9, 25, and 1000
    • counting backwards through zero to include negative numbers
    • rounding any number to the nearest 10, 100, or 1000.

More information and activity ideas for Year 4

Number ad place value in Year 5 (age 9–10)

In Year 5, children will read, write, compare, and order numbers up to 1,000,000, recognising the place value of each digit. This includes:

    • counting forwards and backwards with positive and negative numbers
    • rounding numbers up to one million to the nearest 10, 100, 1000, 10,000 and 100,000
    • recognising Roman numerals I, V, X, L, C, D, and M to read numbers and years.

More information and activity ideas for Year 5

Number and place value in Year 6 (age 10–11)

In Year 6, children will read, write, compare, order, and round numbers up to 10,000,000 and begin to learn about algebra, ratio, and proportion. This includes:

    • using number lines to add and subtract negative numbers
    • using simple formulae and following rules such as 2n + 3 to find numbers in a sequence
    • solving problems involving place value, ratio, scale factors, and equations expressed.

More information and activity ideas for Year 6