Help Students Master Essential Concepts with These 5 Place Value Games for 1st Grade

There are many important things that 1st graders need to learn. Place value is certainly one of the most important concepts that they’ll need to master in order to achieve future success in math.

Learning that each digit’s place in a number impacts its value may seem straightforward now as an adult, but for children, this concept can seem confusing. The digit 3, for example, has a completely different value in the number 143 than in the number 341.

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Math has always been one of my favorite subjects to teach. However, when I moved from the upper grades to become a first-grade teacher, I had a hard time helping some of my students understand place value. Fortunately, after some discussions with my teammates, some research, and some experimentation, I was able to discover some different strategies that really helped my students.

I think the strategies and games that I’ve found and had success with will also help your students, and I’d love to share them with you! Keep reading, and I’ll share:

5 Place Value Games For 1st Grade

These place value games for 1st grade are certain to have your students excited and ready to learn and practice place value concepts.

1. Scoop & Group

You’ll Need

  • Scoop & Group Recording Sheet
  • Small shovel or scoop
  • Buttons or other small counters

This hands-on game is designed to help students practice putting items together in groups of 10. Each student will need a small scoop to pull some of the counters out of the bag/bin. They will then need to group their items into sets of 10 and put each set in one of the circles on the page. Any leftovers (for example, the 8 extras if the student scooped out 38) go in the leftovers box. Students can compare the number of counters they pulled out with how many their partner pulled out. Leaving them laid out on the recording sheet will make it easier for students to see which number is greater.

If you’re looking for a good activity for students to practice at home, consider recording this lesson. You can share it with parents so they can recreate it at home to help their children practice making tens.

2. Place Value House

You’ll Need

  • Place Value House Video
  • Place Value House tens and ones mats
  • Tens and ones blocks
  • 2-digit number cards

This video activity can help students learn more about place value. Project the video for the whole class to see on your interactive whiteboard. Learn more about the best interactive whiteboards here. Make a paper “place value house” for students so they can follow along with the video and practice placing each digit in the right room of their house. After watching the video, provide the students with additional practice problems they can solve using their place value house mats.

For example, you may give them 2-digit number cards (such as 67 or 19), and they’ll need to decide where to place each digit in the house. You could also give them tens and ones blocks and ask them to show a certain number with the blocks. Then, they should write down the number they showed.

3. Online Place Value Practice

You’ll Need

  • Computers or tablets for each student
  • Place value mats and blocks for support

Scroll to the bottom of this page that walks through different ideas you can use to teach place value to your students to find the online review game. For this game, students will need to answer questions about how many digits are in a given number and other related place value questions. If they choose the wrong answer, the game will pause to display the correct answer.

Here's the equipment for the game

You could use these opportunities as a teachable moment to note what students are missing and provide them with additional practice.

4. The Three Little Pigs Place Value Game

You’ll Need

  • A Three Little Pigs Story
  • Ones, tens, and hundreds blocks-both real manipulatives and paper print-outs
  • Place value mat
  • Construction paper
  • Glue

After reading the story of the Three Little Pigs, tell students that they are going to make a house for the pigs using ones, tens, and hundreds blocks. Give each student a 3-digit number (with just 1 in the hundreds place), and ask them to pull out the number of ones, tens, and hundreds blocks in their number. Students can then use their blocks to make a house for the pigs. After the houses are made, students can glue the paper place value blocks to the construction paper to show the house they created.

You can discuss with students what numbers they represented at the value of each digit. Students can share their houses with the rest of the class using the document camera.

Do you know the story of the three little pigs?

5. The Value of a Name

You’ll Need

  • Tens and ones blocks
  • Place value chart

Tell students to use the ones and tens blocks to write out their name. After students have written out their name, have them move the ones and tens blocks to the place value chart. They will then need to make groups of 10 ones as necessary to make tens, and make groups of 10 tens as needed to make hundreds. Once students have completed these tasks, they will be able to determine the value of their name.

You can have students write out the value of their name by filling in something like: “My name is _______. I have ____ hundreds, ____ tens, and ____ ones in my name.”Consider taking a picture of each student’s name after they make it with the blocks and displaying it with the paper where they wrote their name’s value. It could make a nice bulletin board display.

Do your students know how to count?

How To Teach Place Value to First Grade Students

Ok, so now that I’ve shared some of my favorite place value games to use with 1st grade students, let’s step back just for a second and talk about how to teach place value to students. The games above can be used while teaching the concepts in a small group or as independent practice once students have had enough instruction on the concept to be ready to play on their own or with a partner.

Don't worry, be happy

The best way to teach place value to students is to use a lot of manipulatives. Students need practice building a ten using 10 ones and building a hundred using 10 tens. With repeated practice, they’ll start to see the relationship between ones, tens, and hundreds.

As you’re introducing the concept of place value and want students to learn how to make tens and hundreds, this place value song may be helpful.

Here are a few other tips to help you teach place value to your 1st graders:

  1. Have students draw pictorial ones, tens, and hundreds models to go along with the physical manipulatives.
  2. Use ten frames to help students visualize how many ones make a ten.
  3. When reading numbers, have students read the number in both standard form and base ten form (for example, 57 should be read as fifty-seven and 5 tens and 7 ones).
  4. Create a daily place value warm-up to help students practice.
  5. Have students guess your ‘mystery’ number by describing it. For example, “my number as 4 tens, 8 hundreds, and 2 ones”. You could even make this more challenging when your students are ready by saying, “My number has 4 tens, and odd number in the hundreds place, and an even number in the ones place” (there could be multiple correct answers for this riddle).
  6. Look for additional place value lesson plans online to supplement your instruction, such as this Place Value Party lesson idea.

If you’d like some additional tips on how to teach place value to first-graders, this video is an excellent resource. It includes directions for the place value game Race to 100 (or Race to 50), the What’s My Value game, and Zoey Zoo Fiasco math mystery place value game.

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I don’t know about you, but I find these videos by teacher Susan Jones to be very informative and easy to understand. I also like how clearly she lays out the directions for each of her place value games and find that they are easy to replicate with my students.

Introduction To Place Value

Before you teach place value to your 1st graders, it is important to make sure you have a solid understanding of what place value means.

It is important to properly explain new material to students

So, what exactly does place value mean?Place value refers to the fact that a digit’s value in a number is dependent on its position in a number. When we refer to numbers, each digit has its own place. 1st graders primarily work with two- or three-digit numbers, so let’s look at examples with those.

In the 2-digit number 34 the 3 is in the ten’s place and the 4 is in the one’s place.3 in the tens place does not have a value of only 3. Rather, it means 3 tens, which has a value of 30 (10, 20, 30). The 4 in the ones place simply means 4 ones (1, 2, 3, 4), so its value is just 4.

30 + 4 = 34

Now, for a 3-digit example. In the number 347, the 3 is in the hundred’s place, the 4 is in the ten’s place, and the 7 is in the one’s place. The value of a 3 in the hundreds place is 300 (count by 100 three times: 100, 200, 300). The value of the 4 in the tens place is 40 (count by 10 four times: 10, 20, 30, 40). Finally, the value of the 7 in the ones place is 7 (count by 1 seven times: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

300 + 40 + 7 = 347

If you look more closely at both of those examples, you’ll notice that each number had a 3 and a 4 in it. However, since these digits were in a different place in each number, they did not have the same value.In the first number, 34, the 3 was in the ten’s place with a value of 30, while in the second number it was in the hundred’s place with a value of 300.

This video shares a short activity that you can do with your students to help them see how the value of each digit changes based on its place in a number. The example in the video is for much longer numbers, but you could easily modify it to use with either 2- or 3-digit numbers.

Do you think this activity will help your students understand how a number’s place determines its value?

Useful Resources:

 Final Thoughts

Helping your 1st grade students develop a deep understanding of place value is one of your most important jobs. However, with the place value games for 1st grade that I shared above, it doesn’t have to be boring or tedious to help them gain this essential knowledge. Which games are you ready to begin incorporating into your lesson plans right away?

Paulie Ivanova
  1. My daughter is in 1st grade and I still don’t know how to make it easier for her to understand the meaning of the place of value. Do you know of any simple explanation?

    Reply
    • Take as an example the number 123. Here the 3 is just 3. The 2 represents 20 (or two tens), and the 1 represents 100. Their values depend on where they appear in the representation of the number. That’s place value.

      Reply

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