Life without Base Ten is a mess!

By Raphael Kohlberg

Base Ten allows us to think about quantities large or small in an organized way. It helps us understand the magnitude of a number and lets us efficiently do operations.Let’s look at what life might be like without Digi-Block blocks:

Can you guess how many blocks there are here?

Seriously, think of a guess! OK, now I’ll pack the blocks…

Much easier, right?

You could figure out that there are 123 blocks in the first image by individually counting each block. This isn’t a wrong approach, but it’s quite slow and tedious. Viewing each block as an individual unit makes it difficult to efficiently think about large quantities. When you conceptualize numbers with a base ten mindset, as in the second photo, you can see how ones units compose tens units, tens units compose hundreds units, and so on. Understanding this makes it much easier to visualize quantities. With the blocks packed up, allowing us to see this quantity in base ten, it takes just a quick glance to see that the quantity is 123 – composed of 1 block-of-100, 2 blocks-of-10, and 3 ones.