Playing with the Base-10 blocks to practice addition

“Mom ! Could we play that game again?”.

Over Summer,  Rosie, my 6 year old daughter has enjoyed exploring the decimal system and operations playing with the Base-Ten blocks (see my previous post here if you want to know more about these blocks).

Since she asked me to play our latest game first thing in the morning,  it is probably worth sharing it.  So here I am.



  • Base-Ten blocks (I usually use eNasco (website here) when I order math-related material, but you can find these Base-Ten blocks on Amazon as well). Each player gets:
    • 1 Hundred (a plate of 100 Units, also called Flat),
    • 10 Tens ((a bar of 10 Units called Rod or Long),
    • 10 Ones (little cubes called Units)
  • Die 0 to 9 (I love fancy dice, you can find them online (eNasco !), at a children’s store, etc, for 20-50 cents each). You can otherwise make a deck of 10 cards, numbered from 0 to 9.

How to play : Here come Woody and Buzz again for the demonstration !

    • Both Woody and Buzz have a Hundred in front of them. They get 10 Tens, and 10 Ones. The goal? Covering the Hundred by adding Ones and Tens.
    • Woody starts. He rolls the die/draws a card. He gets a 4. He adds 4 Ones to start covering his HundredIMG_4092
    • It is Buzz’s turn. He gets a  3. He adds 3 Ones on his Hundred.


  • It is Woody’s turn. He gets a 7. Let’s the fun begin ! He uses his 6 Ones left to go to 10, trades the 10 Ones  for a Ten. And add 1 more One to make 11.

Woody gets a 7


Woody uses his 6 Ones left to go to 10


Woody trades his 10 Ones for 1 Ten


Woody adds 1 more One

  •  And so on until Buzz and Woody cover their Hundred.

What I like about the game :

  • It gives Rosie plenty of opportunities to explore addition with a result reaching the next Ten. “e.g. I have 7, I get 6, I need 3 to reach 10. And add 3 more.”
  • The game can be played at several levels
    • practicing adding Ones and trading 10 Ones for a Ten, without formally keeping track of how many blocks are covering the Hundred
    • modeling the addition of  two 1-digit numbers and  the addition of a 1-digit number to a 2 digit number
    • adding numbers mentally, then checking the answer with the blocks
    • connecting each turn to an equation – Ex: 8 + 9 = 8 + 2 + 7 = 10 + 7 = 17
  • It gives me plenty of opportunities to model and express what I am doing,  even if I do not expect Rosie to do so at this point with upper numbers. By the way, I like to call these blocks Ones, Tens, or Hundreds, instead of Units, Rods, and Flats. I think it helps Rosie learn the nomenclature of  the decimal system.
    • “Let me count how many Ones I have at this point. I have 3 Tens, it means 10, 20, 30 Ones, and I have 5 more Ones, so I have 35 Ones total !”
    • “I have 35, I get 8, if I decompose 8 into 5 + 3, I reach 40, and add 3 more. I have 43 !”
  • It can be adapted to a cooperative game, if you want to avoid to have a winner and a loser. Both players work together, taking turns, and see if they can cover the Hundred in less than 20 turns, for instance.
  • On a side note, Rosie said at one point : “That’s funny, it is actually easier to add numbers when you are in the 20s or 30s, than when you are in the 10s. You have 24, you can really hear the 4, so you know you need 6 to reach 30 ! But with 12, or 13, you don’t hear the 2 or the 3. It is hard !”.  Now, how could I have guessed she would ever say that?

Gotta go ! Gotta play, again !

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