Place Value Game

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Students will be able to recognize that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right.

Big Idea

It's times 10!


This lesson is a game where students practice creating the largest or smallest number and then challenging each other with questions.  The way we teach place value has changed with the Common Core Standards and this simple game helps reinforce the new way to work with place value.  To extend and reinforce - the best way to learn is to teach - I had my students teach the game to their little buddies.  Check out this lesson

Exploring Place Value Game

30 minutes

This lesson is a great beginning of the year lesson to evaluate your students on place value and to have some fun too. 

I start this lesson by putting  dashes on the board separated by comas represented periods like this  _ _ _, _ _ _, _ _ _ .  Ask your students to name the value of each place: ones, tens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands, billions, ten billion, hundred billion.  To randomly check on students I point to a place and pull sticks with student’s names on them and ask them “What is the name of this place?”  If I notice there are students who do not know the names I have them write down in chart form the ones to hundred billions.  Once I have checked on student understanding I tell them we are going to play a game.  I have them write the dashes and commas in their Math Journals and I walk them through the game.

I use a 9 sided die for this – if you have a SmartBoard you could probably create a spinner to use. There is also an online spinner that is quite flexible, allowing you to set the number of sections and write - in this case the number - each section.

As I roll the dice you can put the number rolled on any of the lines, you cannot erase or move a number once it is written down.  These rules are important to say more than once, because kids will miss this and start to move numbers.  You can decide if you want them to make the greatest number possible or the smallest number possible.  I would start with one and stick with it for a while so they understand how to play the game.  Roll the dice 9 times and model for your students, and then place them to create the greatest number.  Explain why you are making the choices that you do. 

After you have filled all places call on students to read their number.  Ask questions such as:

Does anyone have a number that is greater/less than this?

If the digit in the tens column is moved to the hundreds, how much more is it worth?   Keep this question to only moving up to the next place until your students can say 10 times more.  Then proceed to moving down and 10 times less or 1/10.  

To have students take ownership for their learning put them in pairs and pass out dice.  Give them a few rules:

  • Each person gets a turn rolling the dice – either one person rolls for 9 straight times or take turns for each roll.
  • You cannot erase or change a number once it is written.
  • You must read your number out loud to your partner.
  • You must decide whose number is bigger. 
  • You must ask your partner “If the digit in the _____ column is moved to the ______ how has its value changed.


Place Value Student Example

Student Reflection

5 minutes

Having students reflect on their learning is a vital part of each lesson.  It is as important as the activity.  I use a format for reflections I call Reflect 1, 2, 3.  These align to three questions I ask after every lesson. 

This time I have the students write their reflections in their journals to give me a sample of their writing – in an informal and nonthreatening way. The lesson is about math and not about a polished piece  of writing.   I try to establish at the beginning of the year not all writing has to be to final copy or ready to be published.  Many times students are writing to show what they know or to take notes.  I have found when the pressure of spelling, grammar and punctuation is off, they focus more on getting their ideas across. 

The questions I ask are:

  • What did you learn from playing this place value game?

Student Reflection #1

  • How well did you and your partner work together?

Student Reflection #2

  • How did you help your partner?


A good idea would be to respond to your students in the journals.  There are a number of ways I've heard to do this effectively.  One is to collect from one table of students a day (I have 4-5 students sitting at one table.  In a six day rotation I would be able to get to all student reflections.  Something else you could do is to walk around reading the reflections as they write them.  Start on one side of the room one time and then on the opposite side another time.  This way you would be able to read the different types of reflections from different students.   If you have an amazing amount of time collect all the journals at once and comment to your students.