3 Fun Place Value Games for 1st and 2nd Grade

August 9, 2021

Are you looking for fun and easy fun ways to teach place value to your k-2 students? Place value is one of those complex math skills we teach our young students. If students do not have a strong understanding of place value they may struggle with adding and subtracting multi-digit numbers, regrouping, and so many other mathematical concepts. So, let’s dive into some engaging ways you can teach your students place value. I also shared this information in a video so if you would like to watch or listen, just click play below:

To read about each activity, just keep scrolling!

Race to 50 or 100 

This first game is just as it sounds. To play, students will need a playing board, one or two dice, and connecting cubes. You can see how it is set up below:

This game is best played with a partner but students can play this one individually as well. Students will take turns rolling the dice and adding the correct number of cubes to their board. The first one to get to 50 is the winner! When using connecting cubes I like to make sure my students don’t connect their cubes together until they complete a row of 10. I like them to physically do the act of connecting them as a way to exchange their 10 individual cubes and create a “rod” or a ten by connectiong them together. As I walk around and ask students what number they’re currently on, I like to make sure that they count those completed rows by tens, then add on the ones at the end. The Race to 50 board is shown above, but then students can play Race to 100, which is played the same exact way, but with a 100 chart instead of the 50 chart!

The purpose of this game is for your students to better understand that ten single ones equal a ten, for example when they see the number 13 we want them to know this is 1 ten and 3 ones. This game is best utlized early on in your place value unit to help them physically feel the different numbers. 


What’s My Value?

This next activity is great to use for a whole group or small group activity to really get students talking about place value. It is similar to a number talk! When doing this activity you will want to write down three different numbers that include the same number in three different places. You can see an example of this below:

In the above example, I would point out how the number “1” is in all three numbers, but that it means different things based on its place value. When doing this with the class, I would ask students to first identify the “1” in each number and I would underline it. Then, I would ask students what the VALUE of the 1 is in each number. While students are thinking and discussing, you’ll really want to hone in on these conversations for a better understanding of how they are processing this concept.

This activity allows you to dissect each number and to really emphasize the difference in each number, you can also use manipulatives to give students a visualization. The goal of the activity is for them to understand the value is different based on where the digit is in the number (aka the place value). This is one of my favorite activities to use because it helps students further understand the value and meaning of placement in two and three-digit numbers.

After we have had our discussions, I like to incorporate a game of memory where students will match the number with the underlined digit to its actual value. This is one of my favorites because it helps students really think about the value and the meaning of where a number is in a 2 or 3 digit number! You can see this game below:


Both of the above games are in my hands-on place value unit, which you can see below:


Zoey’s Zoo Fiasco 

Okay last, but not least… this is one of my all-time favorite games!

As you know when teaching new math concepts you want to make it as hands-on as possible. We want students using manipulatives, having conversations, and having time to practice, practice, practice. With place value, we eventually want students to be able to quickly identifiy the number and the value of each of the digits.

With this game, students will practice counting up tens and ones all the way to 120, making this game perfect for first grade students. This is one of my Covid creations, so it’s also available pre-loaded into Seesaw and Google Classroom as well as having a printable, hands-on version. The premise of this math mystery is: Zoey is a zookeeper and all the animals escape during her first day on the job. Students must use the clues to figure out which exhibit each animal belongs in. Here is a look at the activity below:

To do this, students will count up the tens and ones to figure out what number is being shown and they’ll use the key to help them find the corresponding letter to answer the clue. The digital version is very similar to the hands-on resource. Students can complete this game with a partner or in a small group, by splitting up the clues to solve, then coming together at the end to solve the whole mystery. Students could also complete this indepdndently over an extended period of time. This is a great way to incorporate the concept of place value in a fun and engaging way. 

In case you are interested, here’s a look at what the digital version looks like:

To grab this place value mystery, just click below and check it out.

I also have lots of other math mysteries, here >> math mysteries!

Also, all the math mysteries are included in the SJT Math Club, so if you are a member, you can grab them all in there!

So there you have 3 of my favorite place value game to use with students! I hope you enjoy these ideas and activities. Have you played any of them before?! Let me know in the comments!


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