I often play this simple game with younger pupils to help them build a stronger understanding of place value. It’s simple and requires no resources.

Start off by drawing a place value chart on the board. Depending on where you are at, you could do just hundreds, tens, ones or you could include digits either side of the decimal point, e.g. tens, ones, tenths and hundredths. Use this as an opportunity to target questions at students as you are drawing the table “if we are doing place value, which column is this?”

Each group then has a row on the place value chart. You want to limit it to about 6-7 groups otherwise it takes too long to get round to your go again. It works really well with small classes working in pairs or threes.

Then we start randomly generating digits. You could just use a dice (it doesn’t matter if you only have digits up to six), or using something like this from Classtools.net

There are a couple of twists that I have added to this over the years.

1, You don’t just get to place the digits in your own row, you can also place them in someone else’s row. So if you get a low digit, you can scupper someone else’s chances by putting it in their thousands column. This depends very much on the culture within the classroom. If you think there might be existing friendship issues amongst the group then it may be best to avoid this twist.

2, You could add some extra options as shown above, e.g. multiply or divide by ten. This can make it a bit more interesting. Other options might be to be able to erase a digit.

It’s good fun, but to get the most out of it, it is good to discuss at various stages who will definitely have the highest number / lowest number, etc. You don’t always need to fill the grid completely to determine the order of the numbers. Why is this?

If you have used this or have any ideas for other “twists”, please drop me a line in the comments.

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