Ioan’s favourite animals are the red panda. We went to see some on National Red Panda Day (17th September) and so Finny decided to do a place value activity for Ioan with a red panda and his fictional, ‘National Red Panda Party’.


  • Schleich red panda and collection of teddies
  • Base Ten set
  • Place Value Disks
  • Whiteboards and pens
  • Coloured scarves
  • Grapat loose parts

Problem solving

“It’s the International Red Panda Party. Can Red Panda get there?”

What is place value?

Place value is the value of each digit in a number. It is important that children understand that while a digit can be the same, its value depends on where it is in the number. 

For example, the 5 in 350 represents 5 tens, or 50; however, the 5 in 5,006 represents 5 thousands, or 5,000

Often, these will just appear with letters on them to represent each position:

Millions, Hundred Thousands, Ten Thousands, Thousands, Hundreds, Tens, Ones, tenths, hundredths, and so on. 

The examples below, look at Ten Thousands, Thousands, Hundreds, Tens and Ones and are represented as TTh,Th, H, T and O.

First, Ioan had to find all the place value counters and put them in the place value grid, then calculate the total.

In the video above, Finny had set up an example with no ‘ones’ to collect. The answer was 3520. Which is 3 thousands, 5 hundreds, 2 tens and 0 ones.

I wanted to check that Ioan and Finny understood why you still need to record the 0 ones, even though zero shows that there is no amount.

Zero is also used as a “placeholder” so we can write a numeral properly.

In Finny’s example, 3520 (three thousand five hundred and twenty) could be mistaken for 352 (three hundred and fifty two) without the zero in the ones place.

Next, Ioan had to work out what the circled numbers represented.

Ioan had to identify the amount represented by the base ten.

Finny explained that the next challenge was to estimate the total of the place value disks.

This example looked at Thousands, Hundreds, Tens and Ones, represented on the place value chart as Th, H, T and O.

Here, the example went in to Ten Thousands. You can’t have a number bigger than 9 in any given place, so if Finny had left out ten or more disks, Ioan had to work out what to do.

Ioan then showed an easier way of representing the 11,390 with place value disks.

Ten ‘1,000 disks’ became one ‘10,000 disk’.

Ten ‘100 disks’ became one ‘1,000 disk’.

Three ‘100 disks’ stayed the same.

Then the eight ’10 disks’, combined with the ten ‘1 disks’ to become nine ’10 disks‘.

Zero is also used as a “placeholder” in the ones column, so the numeral can be written properly.

Then it was time for the ‘International Red Panda Party’.

DfES National Curriculum (2013)

Numeracy Year 4 programme of study

Number – number and place value

  • count in multiples of 1000
  • find 1000 more or less than a given number
  • recognise the place value of each digit in a four-digit number (thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones)
  • order and compare numbers beyond 1000
  • identify, represent and estimate numbers using different representations
  • round any number to the nearest 10, 100 or 1000
  • solve number and practical problems that involve all of the above and with increasingly large positive numbers