October 16, 2011

Fun Card Game for Place Value

I was recently asked how to teach place value. One fun way to teach about place value is through a variation of the old card game, War. You'll remember that in War, the deck is dealt evenly to all players, the players players flip one card face-up simultaneously, and the player with the highest card takes the other cards. This continues until one player has all the cards.

In Place Value War, which I adapted from a Singapore Math teacher's manual, each player has a place value mat or piece of paper with thousands, hundreds, tens, and ones, written on it. Follow this procedure to play.
Click for a printable PDF version of this Place Value Chart

  1. Deal all the cards face down. (I recommend using an UNO deck rather than regular playing cards because the UNO deck has zeroes and the ones are proper ones, not aces.)
  2. Players simultaneously flip one of their cards face-up, decide where to place it on their chart, and state their choices. ("Seven hundreds" or "three ones.")
  3. Continue until all places on the paper are filled, then each player says the number that is on his paper.  ("Seven thousand, five hundred, twenty-three.")
  4. The player with the highest 4-digit number wins the round and takes the other players cards.
  5. Continue play until one player has all of the cards.
This game naturally teachers place value because players soon realize that, for example, a 3 in the hundreds place is  greater than a 9 in the tens place. Unlike regular War, Place Value War includes strategic thinking about probability. ("Should I place a six in the thousands place on my first draw or hope for a higher number?")

Of course you can adjust the game to include more or fewer places on the paper. To increase the suspense, I sometimes have the players take turns instead of flipping cards simultaneously. Enjoy the game, make up your own rules, and share your experiences or suggestions in the comments.

You may also be interested in How to Teach Math with UNO.

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