Race to 100: Place-Value Game for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade

This fun, simple place-value game will give your kindergartner, first grader, or second grader lots of practice at using place-value to solve simple mental math problems. All you need is a deck of cards! 

Place-value is one of the trickiest concepts for young students to master. That’s because it’s a very un-intuitive concept. After all, children are used to things not changing when they’re moved.

If I move 4 toy cars from the play room to the stairs, there are still 4 trains.

If I move 2 pieces of chocolate from the counter to the cozy chair next to the window, there are still just 2 pieces of chocolate…at least for now.

And if I dump a tub of glitter on the floor, it’s still the same amount of glitter, even if it now looks like 17 tubs of glitter.

But when it comes to place-value, suddenly the placement of the numbers determines what they mean. If you put a 2 in the ones-place, it’s worth 2. But, if you move the 2 to the tens-place, the very same 2 is now worth 2 tens.

Children need lots of hands-on practice to master this difficult concept. When you’re first introducing place-value, make sure to spend plenty of time matching hands-on materials, spoken names for numbers, and the written numerals. Use bundles of 10 straws, egg cartons (with 2 cups cut off, so that there are 10 cups), dimes and pennies, the AL Abacus, base-ten blocks, place-value discs, or anything else you can think of to practice place-value in many, many ways.

place value manipulatives
3 different ways to show 27: straws, base-ten blocks, and coins

But even once your child starts to understand the basic idea, he or she will still need a lot of reinforcement that goes beyond just simply matching spoken words, written numerals, and hands-on materials. That’s why I created Race to 100: it helps kids take place-value ideas a step further as they begin to add 1, 2 or 10 to two-digit numbers mentally.

Race to 100 (Place-Value Game)


Face cards, 10s, aces, and 2s from a deck of cards

Object of the Game

Be the first player to reach 100.

Basic Rules

Shuffle the cards and place them in a face-down pile. On your turn, flip over a card. Add the number on the card to your score. (Face cards count as 10 points and aces count as 1 point.) The first player whose score is 100 or higher wins.

How to Adjust the Challenge Level for Your Child

The basic rules for this game are very simple, but the real beauty of the game lies in how you can gradually increase the difficulty to help your child become increasingly confident with place-value concepts.

Level 1

Start by use your favorite concrete manipulative to keep track of how many points each player has. For example, if you use bundles of straws, have your child add an individual straw to her pile when she turns over an ace, and have her add a bundle of 10 straws when she turns over a face card. If you use dimes and pennies, have your child add a penny to his pile for an ace, and have him add a dime to his pile for a face card. As you play, discuss each turn and make sure to have your child name her total after each move: “I had 54 and then I added 10. Now, I have 64.”

(Stop here if your child is in kindergarten, since most kindergartners won’t be ready to play this game with numbers only. If your child is older than K, move on Level 2.)

Level 2

Once your child has the hang of the game, try playing the game without manipulatives. Instead, simply write down a running tally of each player’s score. Encourage your child to use her understanding of place-value to find her new total mentally. (For example, if she’s adding 10 to 32, she might think: I need 1 ten more, so 3 tens plus 1 ten is 4 tens.  The other 2 points don’t change, so my new total is 42.) When you first start to play this way, keep the manipulatives handy in case your child needs to check one of his answers.

Level 3

When your child can quickly and easily find the new totals mentally, turn over two cards at a time and add both to the score. This will gently introduce more complex mental math skills, like  adding 2 tens, or a ten and some ones.

I’d love to hear if you play this game and enjoy it–please let me know how it goes in the comments! 

9 thoughts on “Race to 100: Place-Value Game for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade”

  1. I tried this game with my daughter (5 years old but early second grade math thanks to all the great advice from this blog and your books!).

    We try to use a lot of math games for practice. This game plays quickly and has a lot of suspense as either player can take the lead with just a turn of a card. We had a little trouble keeping track of our scores between turns. Next time I think we’ll jot it down on a notepad. I love all the variations though! We did Level 2, but I could see using the entire deck at some point. I would also like to try taking the total over 100 to reinforce place value with three digits. There are so many ways this simple game can be modified!

    I’ve also noticed that using character playing cards really adds to the fun for my daughter! We used Frozen cards and called it Race to Arendelle–instant hit!

    Thanks, Kate!

  2. So glad you and your daughter enjoyed the game, Emily! I love the idea of using thematic cards and giving the game a name that gets your child excited. Being able to individualize your teaching is a wonderful benefit of homeschooling.

    Thanks, and happy math!

    • Also, check out Kate’s Facebook page for the video, “How to Teach Place Value to Kindergartners and First Graders”.

      Thank you, Kate, for creating such wonderful math curriculum and related resources!

  3. I have played a similar game with my first grader using a hundred chart as a game board and rolling dice to move forward. We added stickers to random squares for a ‘back five’ and ‘forward ten’ twist. This was where she really began to grasp place value and its implications for adding and subtracting.


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