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Common Core – Numbers & Operations in Base Ten

by Early Math Counts

The 3rd Standard in the Core focuses on early concepts in Base Ten.

Work with numbers 11-19 to gain foundations for place value.

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.NBT.A.1 Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.


If you are not a math person, haven’t studied math in many years, or have any amount of “math fear” the words BASE TEN may be one of those things that make you sweat and tremble.  In general, I would venture to guess that many of us have heard about Base Ten, but have little to no idea what it really means.

Base Ten is the number system that we commonly use that describes the place of each number (ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, etc.).

Take a look at a number like  4,352

The 2 is in the one’s place, the 5 is in the ten’s place, the 3 is in the hundred’s place and the 4 is in the thousand’s place.  Each of those number is 10 times the value to the right of it (thus the idea of Base Ten- each place increases by a multiple of 10).

One of the common ways that teachers are currently teaching Base Ten is by introducing Base Ten Blocks like those below.

BasetenblocksFor the most part, I think these manipulatives are too sophisticated for pre-k children but they will be introduced to these in kindergarten and will probably use them quite extensively.

If I remember correctly, ones are called “bits”, tens are called “rods”, hundreds are called “flats” and thousands are called “blocks”.  Children begin to create a “rod” by putting 10 bits together, a “flat” by putting 10 rods together and so on.  There are all sorts of interesting and innovative ways teachers are incorporating these into their math teaching.

How can we support the early concepts associated with Base Ten for younger children? The best way we prepare children to understand place value is to reinforce counting, cardinality, ordinality, and one-to-one correspondence.  There are better manipulatives for younger children (Unifix cubes, and Cuisenaire Rods, for instance) that can reinforce these concepts through exploration and play.

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