Place value (the value indicated by where a digit is in a multi-digit number, e.g.: units, tens, hundreds) is one of the keystone concepts in children’s math education. An understanding of place value is necessary for carrying out operations like addition and subtraction with numbers that exceed a single digit. For decades, educators have based their math curricula on the idea that place value is too difficult for most preschoolers to understand.

But some recently published research out of Michigan has turned this idea on its head.