Play With Place Value

Sarah Rhodes

Lesson Goals

1. Students will understand the place value of each digit of a three-digit number.
2. Students will be able to recognize different timbres.
3. Students will create and play extended rhythmic patterns.

Did you know numbers could turn into music? In this lesson, students will experience place value through playing instruments and creating rhythmic patterns.


A computer with an internet connection OR a ten-sided die.
Three different types of instruments or sounds, enough for all students to have an instrument. I suggest using a large, medium, and small sound, such as tubano drums, hand drums, and egg shakers.


1. Introduction (10 minutes)
Watch: “Place Value Song for Kids” by NUMBERROCK Math Songs, available on YouTube here:
Sing the Chorus as a class:
Ten ones make ten.
Ten groups of ten are one hundred. Ten hundreds make one thousand; the pattern never ends.

2. Play the Numbers (20 minutes)
Introduce specific instruments as each digit. I like to use Tubano drums for my hundreds place, hand drums for the tens place, and egg shakers for the ones place, but you could substitute these instruments for any three different instruments or sounds.

Divide your class into three large groups, one group for each place value, and hand out the respective instruments to each student.

Using a Random Number Generator (like this one: ) or a 10-sided die, create a three-digit number and write it on the whiteboard.

The “Hundreds” students will play the tubano, “Tens” plays the hand drum, and “Ones” plays the egg shaker to represent this number.
Ex: 123 = 1 beat on Tubano + 2 beats of hand drum + 3 beats of egg shaker

When each instrument is played, the sections of the class counts the beats out loud: Example:
Teacher: How many hundreds? Hundreds: 1 HUNDRED Teacher: How many tens?
Tens: 1 – 2 TENS
Teacher: How many ones? Ones: 1 – 2 – 3 ONES
Teacher: What does that equal?
Whole Class: One hundred twenty-three!

After each three digit number, sing the Chorus of NUMBERROCK’s “Place Value Song for Kids” again.

3. Repeat the process in step 2 a few times, and then let the students rotate to the next place value digit, so that the students get to experience all three instruments and place value digit.

Differentiation Approaches

During the whole group activity, you may choose to purposefully group students who need extra help in the “ones” section. This will let them feel successful and practice the concept before moving into the tens and hundreds sections.

During the small group activity (assessment), pair students who need extra help with a student who has a stronger grasp of the subject.

To add extra complexity for students who are advanced learners or already have a strong grasp of this math standard, you can try asking them what would happen if they had ten ones, how would that affect the tens group? If you had ten tens, how would that affect the hundreds group?


1. Explain: Body Percussion is using your body to make percussive sounds, like clapping or stomping. What other body percussion sounds can you think of?
2. Students get in groups of 3 and create their own 3-digit number.
3. Each group decides on a body percussion move for each place value
Ex: stomp for hundreds, clap for tens, snap for ones
4. Groups practice independently and perform their numbers for the class, but without speaking – the class must figure out their 3-digit number by watching & listening!

Follow Up and Extension Ideas

Play each group’s numbers back to back to create class composition! How would we write this using standard notation as a rhythmic composition? Perhaps hundreds beats are done with half notes, tens are quarter notes, and ones are eighth notes.

Create comparison equations between two groups, play the equations using instruments.

Create expanded form equations by adding skip counting into the vocalizations of each group! (Ex: How many hundreds? 100 – 200- 300 /How many tens? 10- 20-30.)

Additional Details

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