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Friday, November 21, 2014

A Low Prep Way to Work on Place Value, 1 More, 10 more and Counting

Do you have an impressive collection of craft sticks in your classroom?  How about some rubber bands and a sharpie?  If you have this basic supplies you have everything you need to make a fun and easy game that will help your primary students practice a few important skills.

I actually use craft sticks a few different ways in the classroom but today I want to share with you how I use them for 10's and 1's.  Each kid or pair of kids needs 10 craft sticks (any size or color).  On one side of each stick, make 1 dot in the middle. On the other side of each stick, make 5 dots on either end.  Now each stick has a 10 on one side and a 1 on the other.  

Now you put all of the sticks in your fist and hold them a few inches above the surface of the table or floor and drop them.  Some will land with the 10 side up and some will land with the one side up.  Kids need to figure out how many dots are showing.  When they first start doing this activity, they will often organize the sticks into tens and ones before they count. 
Many kids will organize the sticks into tens and ones when they first start playing this game

When kids put them in order like this it is a great time to talk about tens and ones and what the 6 and 4 mean in the number 64.  There is nothing like a visual to help kids explain that the 6 means 60 and 6 tens. 

As they progress and practice playing this game, I encourage them to straighten them up but to leave them in the order that they fell.  This really helps push their ability to add ten more and one more to any number.  They have to have a good understanding of two digit place value to do it this way. 

This student would count 10, 11, 21, 31, 41, 51, 52, 62, 63, 64.  I then might have them count them fro m right to left to practice a different sequence and to help them see that the order you count in doesn't matter.  
Now the student counts 1, 11, 21, 31, 32, 33, 43, 44, 54, 64.  They will start noticing that some numbers appear over and over again.  After playing this game as a whole class, in pairs and at math stations we will have a whole group discussion about why this is happening.  

After students have had several opportunities to play this game, I will have kids play with partners and shout out their number as they finish each round.  One student will record these numbers on the white board and the rest of the kids will be playing this game for about 5 minutes.  Then I pull them together and we talk about what numbers people got.

Some of the numbers you can get while playing this game.  Notice anything?

 We might organize the numbers in order so it is easier to see and then think-pair-share things we notice.  Then I like to ask some deeper questions like these:

Are there any numbers that are possible to get that are not already up here?
Why haven't we got any of those numbers?
How could I get 65 when I play this game?
How do you know if a number is not possible?
What if we played the game with 9 sticks?  What numbers would be possible then?

Make sure you are following me on Facebook, Pinterest or Bloglovin so you can check out my next post about other ways I use these sticks to promote the big ideas of math!


  1. I LOVE those dot sticks! I love how you separated the 10 into 5 & 5, but it's still 10. Brilliant way to practice a variety of two-digit numbers.

    What I Have Learned

  2. I can't even begin to tell you how many of your posts have been spot on for what I need. This activity is perfect for my grade 3 intervention group. Thank you so much. What is something I am grateful for this Thanksgiving? -- Your knowledge and your willingness to share your expertise.

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment! You made my day! I know what it is like to have lots of kids who need intervention and have no idea where to start! I am so happy to share what I have learned with other teachers and am thankful for great teachers like you!

  3. LOVE this game, Tara! I just pinned and tweeted.
    Thank you SO much!