Earlier this month, we wrote about ways to make math meaningful to students by introducing new concepts in creative ways that connect them to the real world. We gave examples for prisms, the coordinate plane, and probability, among others. (Check out the infographic for quick reference!) In the comments, one of our readers asked for a hook to teach decimals and place value. Our educators took on the challenge, and came up with this Rainbow Decimal Map (just in time for St. Patrick’s Day!).

Teach Decimals and Place Value

By Angela Ruark, M.A.

Use the place values to create a rainbow (Students may choose the colors for their own rainbows):

  • Put the ones place and the decimal in the center arc of the rainbow (red).
  • Connect the tens place to the tenths place using orange.
  • Hundreds and hundredths can be yellow.

Students write a decimal number in the rainbow to practice reading the number and assigning place value to each digit.

Rainbow Chart for Teaching Decimals

Add Manipulatives to Fill the “Pot of Gold”

Students can also use paper money manipulatives for ones, tens, and hundreds, and coins for tenths and hundredths, to fill a “pot of gold” under the rainbow in the appropriate decimal place (e.g., dimes for tenths, pennies for hundredths).

Add Pizazz!

Wear a leprechaun hat for added fun (tip: March is a great time to find them at discount/dollar stores)!

What is the most effective “hook” you use? I would like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or send me an email to share your best “fishing” experience!


About Mathematical Matters

This article is part of the Mathematical Matters series, which examines all things math for elementary and middle school teachers, from the nitty gritty to the philosophical. Look back in the archives for classroom tips, activities, and strategies for making math fun and impactful for your students . . . because math matters!

About Angela Ruark

Angela Ruark, M.A., (@AngelaRuark) is a Math Editor at Mentoring Minds and former educator with over 25 years’ experience in the private sector and both public and private school spheres. As a teacher, she chased the “light bulb” moments, striving to make math fun and interesting for her students. Now she channels all of her experience and creativity into writing curriculum and translating difficult concepts into approachable content. After hours, you’ll find her working on a Doctorate degree, writing about Mathematical Matters for this blog, and dreaming in trigonometry terms.