Base Ten Blocks

Base Ten Blocks, or Place Value Blocks, are a way for kids to experience the difference between ones, tens, hundreds and thousands.

Place value is an important first grade math concept. When we write the number 555, we know that the first digit means 500, the next means 50, and the last one means 5. But kids don't know this automatically, and it can be confusing for them.

To a child, each 5 looks exactly the same and should be worth the same. Base 10 Blocks help kids understand how a 5 could mean 5 ones or 5 hundreds, and helps them see the relationships between them.

Understanding Base 10 Blocks

The best way to understand Base 10 Blocks is with a place value chart, like this one:

place value chart

Let's say we want to make the number 34. Your child would put three 10s blocks in the tens place, and four 1s blocks in the ones place. Now she has a visual understanding of that number.

To add numbers together, such as 21 + 33, make both numbers with the blocks and put them together.

There is just one rule for using Base 10 Blocks: each place can't hold more than 9 blocks. Whenever you get ten ones, take them out and add another ten block to the tens place. If you get 10 tens, take them out and put an extra hundreds block to the hundreds place.

How to use them:

  • write a number and make it with blocks
  • solve math problems, especially adding, subtracting, comparing numbers and regrouping (borrowing or carrying)
  • play games that reinforce those concepts

Get a free place value chart here.

You can purchase base 10 blocks and other math manipulatives in our Artful Math Marketplace--an affiliate of

You might also be interested in the article Place Value Manipulatives.


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey