WPO Image

Simply The Best Place Value Games for First Grade


First off, I should just say that these place value games are really fun to play! Maybe it’s because of the ridiculously high scores you can get when playing with larger numbers. Or maybe it’s the chance to roll dice a lot, or play around with money. Whatever it is, these are some fun math games.

Whose is Bigger?

For this game, each player gets paper and a pencil. You will also need a pile of counters, and two number dice–preferably the kind with the written number, not the kind with the dots. Take turns rolling both dice.

Player 1 rolls the dice and arranges them to make the biggest number, then writes this number on their paper. Player 2 goes next, and does the same thing. The two then compare their numbers for round 1, and the higher number takes a counter.

Players continue playing and comparing numbers after every two rolls. The person with more counters at the end of the game wins.

Skill Note: Because numbers are compared after every turn, this is a fairly easy game and is appropriate for kids who are still new to place value. It gives kids several opportunities to compare numbers: first as they compare the two dice to determine which to put first (the higher number); second, in comparing the two 2-digit numbers to see who won for that round; and third, when they count up their points at the end of the game.

Dice Dip Game

Race Ya There!

This is one of my favorite place value games. To play, each child will need a place value chart and some base 10 blocks or other place value manipulatives.

On a turn, a child rolls two dice and makes that number with the blocks. if there are more than 9 ones at any time, the child has to regroup by trading 10 ones with 1 ten in the tens place. Children take turns rolling the dice and making numbers on their chart.
Play continues until one child reaches 50, but this can be a little difficult, because the child has to roll a number that gets them exactly to 50.

Skill Note: To practice subtraction, children can also play the reverse of this game, “Race Ya Back”. Start with 50 as 5 tens markers in the tens place. As children roll, they take away numbers, regrouping as necessary to give themselves more ones before taking them away. This is a harder skill than addition regrouping, and therefore will need a lot of practice. This is a game that is hard to get sick of, and teaches kids as they play, so feel free to break this one out often. The kids won’t complain.

Adding Food

Almost identical to the game above, “Adding Food” uses food as counters: raisins, m&m;’s, small crackers, or other countable food items. Use a place value chart and compile groups of 10 in small cups on the tens’ side. If you play this as a subtraction game, it makes logical sense to let kids eat them as they are subtracted. By the time they have subtracted all the “counters”, they have eaten them all. (Actually, any place value games that work on subtraction are great to do with food. And of course, food is the great motivator…)

Guess My Number

Think of a number from 1-100. Have a child, or several children, ask yes or no questions to find out what the number is. They might ask if it is odd or even, if it is greater or less than a certain number, if it has a 5 in the tens’ place, etc. Remember: the only rule is that kids have to ask a question that can be answered with “yes” or “no”.

Skill Note: Very soon, kids will want to guess the number. They will not realize that it is much harder to be the one with the secret number. If a child is the holder of the secret number, have them write it down on a piece of paper. This way they can refer to it when others ask their questions, and if necessary, you can help out with the answers.

Drop Out

On a turn, a child will roll 5 dice. If there is a 2 or a 5, those dice are taken out. The rest of the numbers are added together and the sum is written on a piece of paper. The child then takes up the remaining dice and rolls them again, again removing any 2s or 5s and recording the sum. This child can continue rolling whatever dice remain as long as she doesn’t get a 2 or a 5. When all five dice have been removed, she adds up all her points and the next child takes a turn. This game will require kids to add two-digit numbers, and quite possibly do some regrouping.

Smart First Graders