How Big is a Million?


This is an activity based on the picture book How Big is a Million?

Achievement Objectives
NA3-4: Know how many tenths, tens, hundreds, and thousands are in whole numbers.
Specific Learning Outcomes
  1. Students will explore place value between 1,000 and 1,000,000 as decimal fractions and multiples of 10.
  2. Students will be able to model and express the sets of ten thousand and one hundred thousand based on models of one thousand and one million.
Description of Mathematics
  1. Our place value is a decimal system whereby each new place is 10 times greater than the place to the right or one tenth the size of the place to the left.
Required Resource Materials
Decimats (Material Master 7-3)

Large sheets of butcher paper the same size as the poster of stars in the back pocket of the book

Place Value Houses (Material Master 4-11)

How Big is a Million? by Anna Milbourne

Scissors and rulers


Between One Thousand and One Million
This activity is based on the picture book How Big is a Million?

Author: Anna Milbourne
Illustrator: Serena Riglietti
Publisher: Usbourne (2007)
ISBN: 9-780746-07769-6

Pipkin the Penguin goes in search of a set of 1 million things. Along the way he discovers place value amounts of 10, 100, and 1000 but it’s not until he is shown the stars that he can begin to imagine the scope of 1 million. Although this is a simple story the impact and usefulness of the of the accompanying poster of 1,000,000 stars is not to be underestimated for exploring the place value sets of very large numbers.

Lesson Sequence:
*Note: Many students develop the misconception that large numbers greater than 9,999 are in the millions. The place between thousands and millions are often underexplored. This book provides an opportunity for exploring these places because it too, jumps from 1,000 to 1,000,000. So what do the places in between look like?

  1. Prior to reading, assess your students’ understanding of the place value amounts of 1 thousand, 10 thousand, 100 thousand and 1 million.
    Record several numbers between 1 thousand and 1 million.
    Can you read these numbers for me?
    Which is the largest number, which is the smallest?

    Record each of the place value numbers (1,000; 10,000; 100,000; 1,000,000 on the whiteboard or modeling book and ask
    What sort of things can you buy for each of these dollar amounts?
  2. Share the book with the students drawing their attention to the fact that each set is 10 times greater than the previous one until it jumps from 1,000 (the snowflakes) to 1,000,000 (the stars). Model this using a set of place value houses.
  3. After reading ask:
    How could we model a set using the snowflakes(1,000) pages to show 10,000? 100,000?
    Students would be expected to express these as a simple process of copying the 2 page spread 10x or 100x.
    How could we model a set using the huddled penguins (100) pages to show 10,000? 100,000?
    Explore the multiplication involved with how many 100s are needed to make 10,000 or 100,000 using the place value houses to record the shifts in place value.
  4. Put the poster of the million stars in a place where everyone can see it. Ask
    How could we model a set using the star poster to show approximately 10,000? 100,000?
    Explore the idea of using a fraction of the poster to create an approximate set of the other large numbers. One tenth of the poster will have approximately 100,000 stars and one hundredth will have approximately 10,000 stars. Use the decimat as a model to support the idea of creating a shield that can expose fractional amounts when laid over top of the poster.
  5. Have students in small groups create shields from the butcher paper that are exactly the same dimensions as the poster. Instruct them to have fractions cut out so that when laid over the poster specific sets of stars are revealed. They will have to have an accurate way of folding or measuring their extra large “decimat” to create tenths and hundredths.
    For example: create 6 groups and assign the following:
    Create a large decimat shield so that when it is laid over the poster you are confident that approximately ________________ stars are left exposed. Be prepared to defend your “shield” with a mathematical explanation using fractions.
    Choose one of the following sets to demonstrate:
  6. Have students share back their shields with the class stressing the use of fractions in explaining the size of their shield.

Log in or register to create plans from your planning space that include this resource.