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What is Place Value?

By Margo Dill

Place value refers to where a numeral is located in a number. Is it in the ones place? Tens place? Hundredths place? Wherever a numeral is located also gives it value.

Ones, Tens, Hundreds

To understand the definition of place value, which according to the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative is "the value of a digit as determined by its position in a number," it is easiest to understand the first three places left of the decimal point. These are the ones, tens, and hundreds place. Let's take the number 165 as use it as an example.


  • The 1 is in the hundreds place.
  • The 6 is in the tens place.
  • The 5 is in the ones place.

This means that the 1 does not just stand for 1 unit of something. Since it is in the hundreds place, the 1 actually means 100. The 6 does not just mean 6 units; it means 60. Finally, since the 5 is in the ones place, the 5 does stand for 5 units of something. It is important to realize what the different digits actually represent, so that you can understand the value of the number.

Here is another example: 298

  • The 2 is in the hundreds place. The 2 stands for 200.
  • The 9 is in the tens place. The 9 stands for 90.
  • The 8 is in the ones place. The 8 stands for 8.

Knowing the definition of place value and what each digit in a number represents will help you understand the value of any number.

Thousands and Millions

Sometimes when we learn about the definition of place value and discuss larger numbers in the thousands and millions, it can be confusing. Place value does follow a pattern, and this makes it easier to keep track of the value of the digits IF you know the pattern.

Let's look at the thousands places as an example. The first thousands place is simply called thousands. Next comes ten thousands and then hundred thousands. Just like the first three places we mentioned above were ones, tens, and hundreds; the next three are thousands, TEN thousands, and HUNDRED thousands. The only difference and what makes these digits worth more is the thousands added on to the place value. Let's look at this number: 674,128

  • The 6 is in the hundred thousands and stands for 600,000.
  • The 7 is in the ten thousands and stands for 70,000.
  • The 4 is in the thousands and stands for 4,000.
  • The 1 is in the hundreds and stands for 100.
  • The 2 is in the tens and stands for 20.
  • The 8 is in the ones and stands for 8.

So, as you can see with problems where you will be using the definition of place value, if you know the pattern of places, these problems are easier.

Look at the millions places: 715,000,000. They follow the same pattern as the thousands. The 5 is in the millions place. Then the 1 is in the TEN millions place, and the 7 is in the HUNDRED millions place.

Once you know the pattern, you can determine the value and read just about any number!