Looking for an easy, yet powerful, 3- and 4-digit place value game? Well, I’ve got something for you today! Build the Biggest is my version of a well-known place value game. Players roll a number cube and must decide where to place each digit in their number, or if they want to discard the digit. Players compare their numbers and the player with the greatest number wins a point.
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This version for 3- and 4-digit numbers is designed for 2nd grade, which is when students are really beginning to form their understandings about our place value structure. Because of that, I highly recommend that students use base-10 blocks to model the numbers as they build them, as you see pictured above. Using the manipulatives helps students develop a deeper understanding, because they not only see the digit, for example, a 5 in the tens place, but they also see the value, 50. Using ten-sided dice with the digits 0-9 allows for a greater range of numbers and also throws a zero into the mix. For the older students, there are also versions for 6 and 9 digits.
As with any game, the best way to introduce this to students is through small group instruction, allowing you to model the types of conversations you want students to have when they play the game independently. It’s important that students use place value language to justify their comparison. For example, “653 is greater than 498, because I have 6 hundreds and you only have 4 hundreds.”