Tips for Teaching Students to Round

Ditch the rhymes and use these strategies to help your students round and have a solid number sense!

Do you start the year by teaching about place value and rounding? It's pretty common. 

Lots of teachers in our teacher Facebook groups have been struggling with teaching rounding strategies. I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some of the strategies that I used in my classroom.

Ditch the Rhymes

Confession time! When I first began teaching, I thought it was necessary to have a rhyme for rounding. I taught my students all the different rhymes you hear. My go-to rhyme was, "Five or more, raise the score. Four or less, let it rest." 

I came to a realization several years ago that I was doing a disservice to my students when I taught them rhymes about rounding. I was teaching steps and my students did not truly understand why they rounded the way they did. Then, when we were ready for more challenging numbers, my students were stumped and did not have a solid number sense foundation.

Rhymes don't teach number sense. 

Students should be able to explain the reasoning and mathematical thinking behind their conclusions. Let's ditch the rhymes! Instead, let's give students a deeper understanding of number sense.

Strategies to Teach

Start with Place Value

My first recommendation is to make sure that your students can recognize the tens' place. Even in 3rd grade, it's still important to count by tens.

The next step is to teach students to identify the tens that a number is between. They should be able to tell you that 43 is between 40 and 50. The same strategy should be used when rounding to other place values as well. 

Number Lines

After your students have a solid recognition of place value, start using number lines. I suggest using both horizontal and vertical number lines. Number lines help students visualize where the number will be rounded to. I have my students record the tens on each end, and the number halfway between these tens. Next, they will need to plot the number on the number line in the correct location.
Ditch the rhymes and use these strategies to help your students round and have a solid number sense!

Circle and Underline

Once students are comfortable creating number lines, have them use the circling and underlining method. Teach your students to underline the digit for the place value that you are rounding to, and circle the number to its right. Now they can use the circled digit to determine which number to round to.

Hundreds Chart

For struggling students, or students who need accommodations,  keep a hundreds chart nearby. I suggest keeping a few charts laminated, or in sheet protectors for reuse. Students can color in with a dry-erase marker the number they are rounding, and then color in the tens that the number is between.

Real Life Stories

Other students may just need you to relate rounding to a real life story. I've told my students that the hallway represents our number line. There is a bathroom on each end of the hallway. As they are walking down that hallway, they suddenly realize they need to use the restroom! Well, if you are not half way down the hall, would you keep going? Or, would it be wiser to turn around and go to the closer bathroom?! If you are half-way or more down the hallway, it wouldn't be smart to turn around. Keep going until you reach the end because it is closer. Sometimes, they just need to relate math to their every day lives.

Resources for Rounding

Are you looking for resources to help your students practice rounding? Consider using videos from the Khan Academy or LearnZillion.

Or, use Not So Wimpy Teacher's Rounding Interactive Notebook FREEBIE! It includes activities to practice using those number lines and a fun dice rolling activity! Click HERE to grab it.

FREE rounding interactive notebook activities!

Jamie also has other resources in her store to help you with rounding. Check out her rounding task cards, place value interactive notebooks, and place value math centers.

Place value math centers

Would you like more ideas on how to teach math? Check out Jamie's math videos on her Not So Wimpy Teacher YouTube page.

Ditch the rhymes and use these strategies to help your students round and have a solid number sense!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!