What is the Base Ten System?

Instructor: Mark Boster
Base ten is used in our counting system and our monetary system. It is a helpful way to keep track of our money, as we can exchange pennies for dimes and dimes for dollars.

Pennies and Dimes

Shawn went to the store with his mother. On the way out, he saw a gumball machine. He was excited to see that it only cost ten cents for a gumball, which is exactly how much money he had! However, the machine only took dimes, and Shawn had ten pennies. He asked his mother to trade him his ten pennies for one of her dimes and she agreed.


Cheryl needed a dollar bill to take to school for a field trip. She had ten dimes but was nervous to keep track of all that change all the way to school. She traded her father the ten dimes for one dollar bill.

Both of the stories show us about base ten, which we use nearly every day and don't even realize it.

Base Ten

If we want to write any number, we have ten digits we can use: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. If you notice, there is no one digit for the number ten- we need to use two digits, the 1 and the 0. We can only count to nine without the need for two digits. Therefore, we use base ten in order to make bigger numbers. Base ten is a counting system that uses ten digits to write down all numbers.

Base Ten Chart

We use base ten for money also. When using base ten, we can trade ten pennies for a dime (ten ones for one ten). In the chart, you see we can have up to nine in any particular column. However, when we have nine and want to add one more, we need to exchange it for one ten (a dime). If we want to have more than nine in the ones column, we must move it to the next bigger column: tens.

Base Ten Chart

The same is true for the tens (dimes). When we get ten tens, we can trade that in for a hundred. (For instance, ten dimes is one hundred cents or one dollar). If we want to have more than nine in the tens column, we must use the next bigger column: hundreds.


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