Place value can be such a fun math concept to teach! Read on for a hands-on **place value** activity… using nuts and bolts!

Today I’m sharing a free printable activity to help kindergartners understand place value. It’s my third post in our weekly K-2 Math Activities series.

To make our place value activity very concrete – and add in some fine motor skills at the same time – I decided that we’d make our own base ten blocks using nuts and bolts.

My husband purchased the nuts and bolts from Menard’s, a local hardware store. If you’d like to purchase something similar on Amazon, you could buy these nuts and these bolts.

When I opened the packages and started screwing the nuts onto the bolts – to make ten rods with ten nuts on each – I realized this was going to be time-consuming. I had my doubts about whether this was a good idea after all.

I needn’t have worried! My Five and Seven (pictured), along with my Four, eagerly sat at the table and screwed ten nuts onto each bolt. We were finished in about fifteen minutes, and they’d happily have completed more of them!

Playing with nuts and bolts is *such* a great fine motor activity for little hands.

The next day, I pulled out the DIY base ten rods, a pile of loose nuts, and the number mat and cards you’ll find in the download at the end of this post.

To begin, I asked my Five to tell me how many nuts were on a bolt. He counted them, and then remembered that each bolt had ten nuts screwed onto it. He then counted the nuts by ten. “10, 20, 30, 40…”

Next, I showed him how to choose a number card, place it on the sign, and build that number using the nuts and bolts. He caught on very quickly.

He preferred to do the big numbers.

But we also pulled out numbers without any ones.

And it was satisfying to count out so many ones for the number 19.

Truthfully, my Five had resisted doing a learning activity with me (as he so often does). But he loved working with the nuts and bolts, and we were busy for quite some time.

My husband was able to purchase all the materials for about $6 at our local hardware store. In the classroom, you could easily make a single set for a learning center. If you’d like to try a different material for the base ten blocks (or need a much larger quantity), check out the ideas below!

#### What else could you use for base ten blocks?

- Purchase base ten blocks online
- Put beads onto pipe cleaners
- Make base ten blocks with Wikki sticks
- Make them with craft sticks and dried beans
- Use legos to make the blocks

#### Get your free place value mat!

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#### 120 Print and Play Math & Literacy Games for K-2

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mary Rose O'Reilly

This is absolutely brilliant! Not only does it hit on all academic areas it also benefits fine motor skills! Thanks for ALL the great ideas and free resources

Anna G

You’re welcome, Mary!

AH

Thank you, thank you, thank you! We are new to homeschooling and I have been struggling with getting this concept across to my first grader. This is just what we needed!

Anna G

You’re very welcome!

Jenny Hall

Ok I have used just about everything that you offer.. and wow… you create such amazing products that really get the students involved in their learning in a hands on kind of way.. amazing!! I just want to say thank you! so much… thank you!!

Anna Geiger

Thank you for this very kind comment, Jenny, and for the encouragement! I so appreciate it!

CabotMama

Love this idea! My now-5th Grade Son would’ve loved this manipulative!! My youngest child – PreK4 daughter – will probably love it, too. Anything more hands on. I’ve resisted buying the snap-together base 10 blocks because they are so expensive. This reasonably-priced alternative is fantastic! Can’t wait to share this post with all the moms of K-1st boys that I know! Thank you!!

Anna Geiger

Thank you so much for passing this idea along! 🙂

Barbara

I’ve been teaching for 25 years and never once thought of using nuts and bolts that way. What a great idea!

Anna Geiger

Thank you, Barbara! I couldn’t find this idea on Pinterest, so maybe I’m the first to think of it?! I highly doubt it, but either way it turned out really well!