Three Base Ten Activities to Introduce Place Value

Wondering how to use that set of Base Ten blocks in your classroom to introduce place value? Here are three different introductory place value activities that require little to no prep.



For this activity, give students a variety of base ten blocks and have them build something. This could be a structure, such as a tower or a picture as shown below. You can also have students use the blocks to spell their name. Then figure out the value of the picture. The picture below has a value of 254 because two hundreds, five tens, and four ones were used.

An alternative is to give students a target number, and have them build a structure with that value. For example, you might have your students build a structure with a value of 147. Each student’s structure will be different.

Add an extra challenge by having students build a structure with a specific value but a limit on the number of hundreds/tens blocks they can use. For example, “Build a structure with a value of 325, but you may only use TWO hundreds blocks!”

base ten blocks



The second activity is called Race to 100. I’ve also seen this game called The Trading Game. The object of this two-player game is to be the first person to reach 100. Player 1 rolls a die and puts that many ones on the place value chart. Then Player 2 rolls and does the same. Play keeps alternating between players. Once a player has 10 ones, he can trade those for a ten. Players keep rolling, adding blocks, and trading until one person reaches 100.

To play this with place value to 1000, use two dice instead. Players can use the two dice to make a number, then add that many blocks. The object here is to be the first person to trade in 10 hundreds for a thousand block.

base ten blocks




The third activity that we can use to introduce place value concepts with base ten blocks is “How many ways?” This works well as a carousel activity where groups of 2-3 students circulate the room, adding their answer to pieces of chart paper that are posted around the room. The idea here is to see what other groups have written and try to add an answer that has not already been added. Be sure that there are actual base 10 blocks available for students to work with before they write the answer on the chart paper.



Do you have other ideas for using base 10 blocks in your classroom with little to no prep? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!




  • I tried a few of these today! It was very refreshing to try something new! We enjoyed using the various blocks. It was very hands-on. Thank you so much.


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