Name that Comma! Breaking Up Big Numbers Activity

3.7 based on 3 ratings
Updated on Aug 14, 2014

Is your child tense about the tens place? Humbled by the hundreds place? Thwarted by the thousands, and muddled over the millions? Have no fear, it's quite normal to get confused when reading big numbers. That million-dollar check may look like a zillion zeros, but in truth, it's all in the commas. To help your child shake the big number blues, here's a handy strategy that will make him a place value pro!

What You Need:

  • Unlined white paper
  • Multi-colored markers
  • Black marker

What You Do:

  1. Begin by writing a small number on the top of your paper, such as 1,000. Write digits in black, but make the comma green.


  • “The name of the green comma is ‘thousand’”.
  • “Read the number in front of the comma (1).”
  • “Say the name of the comma (thousand).”
  1. That was easy! Now, build larger numbers. Below 1,000, write 10,000.


  • “The name of the green comma is ‘thousand’.”
  • “Read the number in front of the comma (10).”
  • “Say the name of the comma (thousand).
  1. Repeat the process for 100,000. Practice reading and writing several numbers up to 999,999.
  2. Continue adding zeros and making larger numbers. Write 1,000,000, using green for the “thousand” comma and red for the “million” comma. Practice reading and writing numbers up to 999,999,999. Remind your child to simply read the number before the comma, then say the name of the comma.
  3. Repeat the same process and directions for reading large numbers up to 999,999,999,999. Use blue for the “billion” comma and yellow for the “trillion” comma.


  • When helping your child read large numbers, use a 3" x 5" card to cover up everything after the first comma. Read one number and comma at a time.
  • Once your child has mastered “reading the commas,” work backward. Dictate several large numbers and ask your child to write them using the comma colors.
  • Encourage your child to practice writing out large numbers (e.g. twenty seven thousand three hundred fifty) in an old checkbook. Students at this age can’t imagine they’ll ever need to write a check. Just remind them that not everything is electronic yet!
Brigid Del Carmen has a Master's Degree in Special Education with endorsements in Learning Disabilities and Behavior Disorders/Emotional Impairments. Over the past eight years, she has taught Language Arts, Reading and Math in her middle school special education classroom.

How likely are you to recommend to your friends and colleagues?

Not at all likely
Extremely likely