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March 5, 2018

Undoubtedly, one of the most important math concepts kids need to master in the early elementary years is also the same concept that forms a child’s understanding of the meaning behind numbers: place value. Setting the stage for all subsequent math learning, understanding place value helps kids learn to read, and work with larger numbers. 

While understanding place value is a necessary concept for kids to learn, it’s also difficult to understand, especially for early learners. That’s why it’s so important that kids are introduced to place value as early as kindergarten, working at it explicitly throughout the early elementary years until the concept is clearly internalized and understood. 

Why is Place Value Important? 

As mentioned above, the concept of place value sets the stage to learning all future math concepts. Learning place value helps kids learn the meaning and value of numbers, as well as learning how to read numbers in order. If we didn’t understand place value, numbers would look randomly placed, and we wouldn’t know which numbers are larger or smaller than others. For example, if it weren’t for place value, we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between 50 dollars, and 55 dollars.  

For kids to advance to multiple digit multiplication and beyond, kids must understand the concept of place value. So how can we teach this critically important concept in a fun and engaging way that will ensure success? The following fun math games for 2nd grade and under will help kids experience place value in a hands-on way.  

Place Value Games for 2nd Grade or Lower 

Place Value Puzzles

Perfect for younger kids or struggling students, place value puzzles can serve as a fun starting place, and can be tailored to meet the level of the player or players. 

What you’ll Need:

Fun and colorful pictures printed on standard letter paper; square tiles or notecards to cover the picture, prepared ahead of time with numbers of varying sizes

How to Play:

This versatile game can be played with one child, or in a small group, and can be played in variety of ways. One suggested way to start would be to prepare the tiles ahead of time, writing numbers of varying sizes on top of the cards. Using a marker, clearly underline one of the numbers on each tile. For example, if you wrote down the number 1,245, underline the 2. Do this for each of the tiles, making sure to underline a variety of ones, tens, hundreds, and thousands.

When ready to play, place the picture on the ground or on a table and cover the picture with tiles. Each player will take turns to solve the puzzle by naming the place value of each underlined number, picking up the tile as they get each correct. Each correct answer will reveal a small portion of the picture. Get all the answers correct to uncover the entire picture! 

Place Value Dice Roll Game

This exciting game is a favorite of parents and teachers alike! Play with your child, or a small group of students. Look online for a variety of available place value free printables to use with this dice roll activity. 

What You’ll Need:

  • At least 4 dice
  • A pencil
  • Paper
  • Dice game printable printed from the web
  • Base blocks or counters (optional)

How to Play:

Taking turns, roll the dice and place them horizontally. Instruct your child or student to read the numbers from left to right, writing down each number on their paper or printable. For instance, if a child rolls the dice and ends up with the numbers 5, 6, 7, and 8, they will write the number on their paper as 5,678. Afterwards, challenge your child or student to draw out or construct (with base blocks, if available) a picture showing the number, and have him or her write the number in expanded form before doing it all over again to see what numbers they roll! 

Place Value Bucket Toss

Here’s a game to get kids up and moving, while offering a variety of ways to play to meet the needs and level of the players. 

What you’ll Need:

  • 4 large colorful tub
  • Bean bags or soft toys to throw

How to Play:

This game can be played differently depending on the level of the kids involved, and the amount of time you have to play! Prepare ahead of time by labeling the tubs according to the level of the players. For example, label one tub “thousands”, the next “hundreds”, etc. For a simple game, take turns calling out different numbers, and challenge kids to toss the correct number of bean bags into the tubs based on place value.

For instance, if the number is 553, the child will throw 5 bean bags into the hundreds tub, 5 more in the tens tub, and 3 in the ones tub. To ramp up the challenge, give the player 10 bean bags, and allow him or her to throw them into the tubs of their choice. Meanwhile, the other players watching will record the score by writing down the number. Like the game above, if there are 2 bean bags in the hundreds tub, 3 in the tens, and 0 in the ones tub, the number would be written as 230. The game then repeats for each new player! 


The above games are just a few of the many place value games kids can play to strengthen their understanding of place value. Of course, there are also countless apps and online games that can help kids learn and practice place value in a fun and engaging way. Check out our newest worksheets, videos, and updated apps at kidscademy.mobi for even more engaging resources to teach and practice place value! 

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