Teaching Decimal Operations: Methods & Manipulatives

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  • 0:03 Decimals Are Everywhere
  • 0:26 Methods
  • 3:44 Organizing Numbers on Paper
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Matthew Bergstresser

Matthew has a Master of Arts degree in Physics Education

Decimal values are a consistent part of the real world. It is important to get students comfortable with decimals early on in their education. In this lesson, we will discuss various ways to teach decimals.

Decimals Are Everywhere

Can you think of all of the decimals you might come across during your day? Here are a few:

  • Gasoline prices
  • Prices of food
  • Grades in the grade book

Of course there are more uses of decimals, but looking at this basic list points out that money is a major source of decimal use. Let's look at several ways to teach students about decimals.


Recall that a method is a way to go about teaching a concept. As educators, know how challenging it can be to find the perfect method to relate a concept to students. There are visual learners, auditory learners, and tactile learners, and they all have different preferences about the ideal way to learn something new. Let's tap into these styles of learning and find ways to appeal to all of them.

Rounding and Estimating

Teaching students how to round values is very important. Explain to them that rounding decimal values makes the value easier to work with and to make estimations when adding or subtracting them. Use examples such as money that will help them with context and relevance. Set up a scenario where they want to buy two new toys. One is $4.33 and the other is $5.55. Add the numbers together as a group and explain how to round the result. They need to realize that $9.88 can be rounded to $10 and this would give them a rough idea if they have enough money to buy the toys.

Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are visual ways to express concepts. This is great for visual learners. A graphic organizer can be made including the different terms used in relation to the different mathematical operations. Students can keep their math graphic organizer with them whenever they are working on math problems. Tell them it is a mathematician's tool just like a hammer is a carpenter's tool. Now let's look at some activities that give students practice working with decimals.

Card Game

This game is great for all types of learners because they are working with their hands, talking to each other about the values of card they have, and they see the values in front of them on the faces of the cards.

Each group should contain four students or less. One of them is the dealer and the entire deck is dealt out evenly to all members of the group. Each student gets thirteen cards and a penny, which acts as the decimal point. They keep their cards in a stack face down. Each student takes two cards and places them face up with the penny in between the cards. The students then discuss which value is the largest among the four members. The member with the largest value wins and takes all of the cards. When all of the cards are gone the game is over, and a new member of the group shuffles the cards and acts as the dealer for the next game.

Play Money

Here is another great way for all types of learners to practice dealing with decimals. It can be played by two or more students in a group. It is probably best to keep the number in the group under four members.

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