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Place value is a concept in which students in elementary school struggle and instruction and curricular materials continue to introduce and teach place value in a disconnected fashion. This study introduced place value through a modeling perspective, focusing specifically on using the bar model to represent units and quantity. The investigation piloted a place value module highlighting the use of the bar model in four first grade classrooms with high percentages of diverse learners, many from low-income families and with limited English language proficiency. The results indicated students successfully described the differences between units of 1 and 10 and could build and describe numbers in their teens and twenties. Students’ vocabulary and understanding of place value improved over a three-week period, suggesting visual models can be used as an effective model to promote place value understanding.

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This document was originally published in Journal of Mathematics and Education by Education for All. Copyright restrictions may apply.