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Math Graphics:

Count By Tens Grid Game


Today's Snack: Depending on what you decide to use for markers for this game - popcorn, dried beans, dry macaroni, oyster crackers - have extras and cook them for your snack. Pop some extra popcorn, soak extra beans overnight in a slow cooker and make homemade baked beans, whip up some macaroni and cheese, or heat some soup and top with some extra oyster crackers. Wash your snack down with exactly TEN swallows of milk or water!




Graph paper with 1" guidelines | tape | ruler | thin marker

Five index cards | deck of playing cards, face cards removed

At least 100 per player of some kind of small item to use as markers for this game: popcorn kernels, dried beans, dry macaroni, oyster crackers, M&M's, etc., in snack-size zip-lock bags



It's so much easier when you do math by bigger numbers instead of smaller ones! This game will help children who are in second grade or older realize how much more quickly you can count by 10's, rather than by 1's. It sets them up nicely for when multiplication is introduced.


You can make one or more of these grids and laminate them so that you can use them over and over. Make one for each student. Older students may enjoy making their own.


Simply tape together two pieces of graph paper so that the one-inch squares line up. Flip over to the other side. Using a thin colored marker or Sharpie pen and a ruler, mark out a grid that is 10" wide and 10" tall. Go back and mark 1" squares by drawing lines on the inch guidelines. You should end up with a grid that has 10 squares horizontally and 10 squares vertically.


On each of the five index cards, write down one number between 1 and 100 at random. Stack them in order, from the smallest to the largest number. You will use these to get the student(s) started on counting by tens.


Give each student a bag of markers, and encourage them NOT to lose any or let them drop on the floor!


Depending on the age of the student or students, you can lead them in an exploration of how many squares there are altogether on their grids. Call out a couple of one-digit numbers, perhaps 3 and 9, and have them place one marker (popcorn kernel, oyster cracker, or whatever you're using) on the squares on the left-hand column of the grid. See how they don't fill the column to the bottom when they work with a number that is lower than 10? See how much of the 100-space grid is left unfilled? Depending on the students' ages, you can point out that with a 100- 3 squares filled,


Now call out a number between 10 and 20 - perhaps 13. Ask them to fill out the grid to represent that number. Some of them will realize they can leave the ones they already have on there and add more to get to the number 13. Others will remove the ones they had on there and count out 13 more.


Now call out 23. Again, some will realize they can fill out the column they already have and simply add 10 more, while others will remove the 13 they had in place, and count out 23 more.


Either way, they will quickly learn the pattern when you count by 10's.


Now make it a game by showing them the index cards you prepared, one at a time. Start with the smallest of the five numbers. Ask the students to race to put their markers on the right number of squares. Don't tell them to clear their grids each time; they might catch on to an important lesson on their own.


If you start off with "12," and the second number you show is "37," for example, they will soon realize that the fastest way to get from "12" to "37" is to fill out the second column to the bottom to equal "20," fill out one more column to get to "30," and then add seven more, to come to "37." Let's say your third number is "54." They should realize that they should fill out five full columns and then add four remainders.


Go through the rest of your prepared index cards, until they all have the hang of it.


Now clear their grids, and begin another game with the playing cards (face cards removed). The aces represent a "1." Lay the deck face down in the middle of the table. Make sure each student has at least 100 markers and a grid. To play, the first player turns over a playing card, and gets to fill his or her grid with that number of markers. Say the card is a nine of clubs. The player should put nine markers on his or her grid.


Then the next player turns over a card. Say it's a six of diamonds. That player should put six markers on his or her grid.


Keep going, taking turns, until someone has completely filled out his or her grid. They win! Younger kids might benefit from a winning number of 50 (five full columns) rather than 100 (10 full columns), so that the game doesn't go on too long.


Point out the two ways of knowing how many markers you have on your grid: count them individually (boo!), or count by tens and add the remainders (yay!).


You'll find that some kids believe that a number is "bigger" if there are more beans in the right-hand column. For example, one student might have 42 beans - four filled columns with two left over in the fifth column. But another student might have 39 beans - three filled columns, with nine left over. Explain to kids that even though it looks like the student with the "9" has more beans than the student with the "2," because the first student has four columns of 10 (= 40) and the other only has three (= 30), the student with the 42 beans actually has more.


You can probably invent several different ways to play this game - including starting with a filled grid, and removing markers through subtraction. The first one with an empty grid wins.


This is a great way to give kids number sense . . . which is worth more than a hill of beans!



By Susan Darst Williams Math 2012


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