Lizard Land: a game to teach place value


I learned this game from a PD session I had at one of my old schools. Some of you out there may be familiar with it. I’ve used in both Kindergarten and grade 1. It’s a very simple game. I like to start it off as a whole class and once the kids understand it, I set it out as a center.

Materials:

  • Lizard Land Mat
  • Unifix or Multilink cubes

Rules/Concepts:

    • 1 cube = 1 lizard
    • 4 lizards = 1 gecko
    • 4 geckos = 1 iguana

The concept is basically like place value, where one side of the mat has two boxes for the ‘tens’ (gecko land) and ‘ones’ (lizard land). The opposite side with three boxes then goes into the ‘hundreds’ (iguana land).

The purpose behind lowering the place value measure from the usual ten to just four is so that the kids get more practice moving back and forth between the boxes to understand the movement through place value.

How to Play:

  • You (the teacher), are the “king” of Lizard Land and you get to choose how many lizards everyone gets or has to give back
  • I like to begin on the first side with just 2 boxes to first let them get used to the game. I start by having the children touch the white box and ask them, “What land is this?” Response: “Lizard Land”. Then I do the same for Gecko land so they remember which box is which.
  • Start with asking them to get a number that is less than 4, then ask “How many do you have?” The first time usually goes something like:

Ss: “Three!”

T: “Three what?”

Ss: “Three lizards!” (get them to name the place value)

  • You then ask them to get _____ more lizards. At this point they should have enough to make at least one gecko. Again you ask, “how many do you have now?” Answer: “___gecko/s and ___lizard/s”
  • Keep going for a while but be sure not to reach 4 geckos yet as you’re still only working with 2 boxes!
    • Try seeing if the kids can figure out what to do if you ask them to give back lizards. Can they break apart geckos and reorganize the remaning back in lizard land.
  • I also like to say “Give me back 4 lizards” to see if the kids will figure out they can just remove one gecko.
  • Once they get the hang of that, introduce the other side of the mat and the rule that four geckos makes one iguana.

I later then use these same mats with popsicle sticks and rubber bands to teach them actual place value using ones, tens and hundreds.

Here is a video of my class playing Lizard Land just in case it’s still a bit confusing! 🙂

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