Tuesday, 27 September 2016

How to read large numbers

We began our day looking at the following key concept question:

In pairs, the children wrote some large numbers and explained to each other how they read them and why they wrote them the way they did. This helped them to start thinking about our question and also helped me to see where each child was at by the type of numbers they wrote and how.

This year, one of my teaching goals is to try to use provocations as much as possible in maths learning. We know the value of using provocations in our Units of Inquiry and so i want to experiment with using them in maths more often too. 

To provoke our thinking, I then showed them this number and asked them to find a way to read it:

Lots of different strategies were used. Some children identified the place value of each digit, others put commas in the number and others tried to expand it.

One student's strategy:

We shared the different strategies we used and then had a go trying to read it. Loads of different numbers we read with lots of different strategies. We valued each of those shared for having a try and willing to take a risk. 

What made reading this number difficult?

- There were no commas!

Do we have to use commas? Can we use something else?

- We can also put spaces inbetween. 

How do spaces or commas help us?

We then looked at the number with spaces us to help us:

- They help us read the number more easily.


- They help us see what place values the digits are.


- The spaces tell us a place value word.

Oh really? Tell us more.

The student then came up and explained how each time we see a space or comma, we need to say a place value word.

871 BILLION 560 MILLION 378 THOUSAND 420 point seven five.

What do we think of this theory?

Why do we need to remember to put spaces or commas in large numbers?

We then practised creating large numbers with spaces / commas for our partners to read out.

This mightn't have been the most amazing provocation, but I think even simple provocations like this have a deeper learning impact than simple teacher-directed explanations. 


  1. Very glad to see you are back at school, Graeme! I really like your thinking (and your students' thinking!)

  2. Hi Lindy, your message was just what I needed at that time to put a smile on my face. It's the little actions that can make all the difference, non? Thanks a lot! :)


What do you think? ...........