Easy~Peasy Place Value

Here is an easy and inexpensive little tool you can make for teaching about place value. Grab yourself some pill boxes from the dollar store, and soon your students will be reading and writing really big numbers!

The nice thing about weekly pill boxes is that they have seven individual compartments, the perfect amount for building numbers in the millions. Take a look at the pictures below to see how I transformed my pill boxes into learning tools.

I decided that it would be best to cover up the days of the week on the pill box lids. These lids will actually end up being the back of your place value tool, so if you aren’t fussy (like me), you could just leave them as is. A few coats of spray paint will do the trick, but some pieces of duct tape would also do a great job of hiding those letters.

The first thing I did was cover the edges of each pill box with masking tape to keep that part of the container clear. You will also want the bottom to stay clear so the dice will be easily seen. Placing the pill box flat on some newspaper will prevent the bottom from getting sprayed. A role of 3/4″ masking tape worked perfectly to protect those edges.


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I sprayed the lids once and then let them dry for about fifteen minutes before giving them a second coat.

Don’t fret if the letters still show after the first coat of paint.

Here is what they looked like after the second coat. Much better. 🙂

Remember that you can always use duct tape to cover the lids if spray painting seems too complicated.

Next, I removed the masking tape.

I measured the inside of the lids and made a place value label for each section. Mine are printed on white card stock. The label template is nothing fancy, but it might save you some time. 😉


Join the Undercover Classroom email community and receive the place value pill box template as an instant download!

These labels actually fit pretty snug inside the lids, but I added some glue for extra security.

Finally, I placed one small die inside each compartment. Small dice work best, since they allow for shaking room.  I ordered these miniature dice from Amazon. They are very inexpensive, and the .8mm size works perfectly for shaking inside the pill containers. Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link for a product that I use and love which means that I will receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link.

Now it is time to snap the lids shut. Turn it upside down and shake, shake, shake! Your students will have so much fun reading and writing numbers!

Here are some other tools I like to use for teaching place value in the upper elementary grades. The place value lapbook provides lots of hands on practice with really big numbers. The place value scavenger hunt is a challenging enrichment activity that will give your students some extra review and practice and is even great for a sub! 🙂



  1. Abbans11
    August 19, 2016 / 11:30 am

    Absolutely love this idea! I'm thinking of using these for centers, or even my small group in the back. Easy to differentiate by adding or subtracting dice. The dollar store has small foam dice that I would put in for the noise!

  2. Jacqueline Alexander
    September 1, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    Awesome ideas.

  3. Linda Hart
    September 2, 2016 / 12:05 am

    Just bought the pill containers and excited to get them ready over the weekend! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  4. Unknown
    September 6, 2016 / 1:25 am

    So simple yet so brilliant. Thank you for sharing! I plan to differentiate it by incorporating the Spanish terms.

  5. Naomi Corbin
    October 1, 2016 / 1:56 am

    Great idea! I teach fifth grade, I wonder how that could be used for decimal number?

    • karen
      October 29, 2016 / 2:34 pm

      just make one of the spots a decimal

  6. Jeanine S
    November 27, 2016 / 5:37 pm

    You can easily get rid of the letters using nail polish remover, no need for spray paint!

  7. Kim A
    April 1, 2017 / 10:06 pm

    Thanks for the labels! I am going to put in 2 sets of Hundreds, tens, and ones (HTO space HTO) and they can compare the two numbers.

  8. LearningWithMrsKirk
    July 14, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    This is awesome! I can't wait to try it with my students! Thanks for the free printable labels!

  9. Andrea Morey
    November 12, 2017 / 8:22 pm

    Has anyone made labels for decimal numbers?

  10. Unknown
    March 9, 2018 / 11:37 pm

    A fantastic idea! Thanks for sharing!

  11. Unknown
    June 29, 2018 / 9:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I look forward to using this in the fall!

  12. M Catrett
    July 8, 2018 / 12:48 am

    great ideas. Thanks for sharing

  13. LStevenson
    August 6, 2018 / 10:16 pm

    Love this! I have created three sets and will be ready for this year's students. Thank you!

  14. Carrie
    August 31, 2018 / 4:17 am

    Great idea!!I can't wait to make it!Thank you 😊

  15. Gunilla Hjelmlund
    June 25, 2019 / 8:16 am

    But I would like to get 0-9 dices

    • undercoverclassroom
      June 27, 2019 / 10:12 pm

      Yeah, that would be nice! I haven’t seen any mini dice like that.

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