Math Crafts – Paper Chains and Place Value


In math, it’s important for students in beginning grades to understand place value so they can do computation with regrouping.   Make paper chains, with ten loops of a color.  Have each child make ten loops, then staple ten tens to make a hundred.  If adults are present, they can contribute to the effort as well!  Estimate how far 1000 loops will reach (across the room? down the hall? across the playground?)    Staple ten hundreds to make 1000.  Then see how close you came with your estimate.

This activity helps kids understand that:  ten ones = 10; ten tens = 100; and ten hundreds = 1000.

Then help them understand things like:   20 ones = 20     30 tens= 300    50 hundreds = 5000


  •      1” paper strips in several different colors. (I used 100 sheets of  8.5”x11”  photocopy paper cut into 11 strips each)
  •      Small rolls of scotch tape to make each loop.
  •      Stapler to staple the tens together.  (Note: Mini-staplers are not a good idea; they tend to jam.)


Note: 1000 loops is a lot of loops for one kid to make.  Get ten or more kids to work together, and enlist the help of any adults in the vicinity.

1. Use scotch tape to make a string of ten loops, all the same color.

(Having tens in the same color facilitates counting by tens to 100, rather than counting by ones.)

2. Put an adult in charge of stapling the tens together to make a hundred.

Each time you reach 100, let the group know.  Have the group “check” that the chain has 100 by counting the tens:


chains parent

3. After you reach the first 100, ask kids to estimate how far 1000 will be.

Then put the hundred aside and start a new hundred.

4. Each time you reach another hundred, celebrate.

“Check” that there are 100 links by counting tens, then put the hundred aside to start a new hundred.

5. When you reach ten hundreds, count the hundreds:


Some kids will say “ten hundred.” Great! That is your opportunity to talk about the fact that ten hundred is indeed the same as one thousand.   Ask: What are two names for 1100? (Correct answers: “11 hundred,” or “one thousand one hundred”).  Watch out for your genius kids. They maybe be very clever and say “110 tens”!  Smarty pants.

6. Test out their estimate about how far 1000 loops will reach.

chains kids


To build number sense, read the book How Much, How Many, How Far, How Heavy, How Long, How Tall is 1000?  by Helen Nolan.

chains how big

This book is one of 16 books featured in the Let’s Read Math Funbook 2 for elementary grades.

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