So for weeks I have been lamenting about how I wish I didn't give every single thing I owned when I quit teaching. Sorry Lis, for all the whining I've been doing.
But what's that saying, out of necessity comes creativity? I don't know, but either way, here's a great alternative for huge cubes, base ten blocks, hundreds squares, and thousands cubes.
First, mark all your straws, then group accordingly. I explained to my students how each cup can only hold up to 9, after that, they have to move to the next cup.
Decide what numbers you want them to figure out. I chose 9's because it is our number for the week and the digital sum (adding the digits) of 9's are always 9! I love 9's, they are by far a great fact family to study.
Then place in a cup and demonstrate place value. It can be done for review with any number. The key in this activity is to explain why we have another digit in our numbers. I don't expect to have my son memorize his 9's at his age, but I do want him to understand a manipulative that can show him large numbers.