Package 2-1: Place value: The nasty game

In this task your child will develop their understanding of place value by playing a game.

Week 3 - Package 1 - Year 5 and 6 Mathematics - Place value: The nasty game

Things you need

Have these things available so your child can complete this task.


  • Whiteboard or similar wipe-off surface

  • Whiteboard marker and soft clot

  • Pack of cards with 10s, 11s, 12s, Queens and Kings removed

  • 3-4 players

Back up

  • Paper (grid paper is easiest but not essential)

  • Pencils, pens or textas

  • You can roll a die instead of turning over cards but that will only give you the numbers 1-6 to play with unless you have a 0-9 die.

  • 2 players and 2 dummy players. It’s nice to have dummy players even if there are more than two players as it gives each player more of a chance.

Before you start

The Nasty Game is an engaging, strategic and competitive way for your child to practice reading and understanding numbers up to 9 999 999 or nine million nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine. Before you start the game it is a good idea to check that your child can read aloud numbers of this magnitude. You can check this by writing down a few numbers and asking them to say them out loud as above. If your child finds this too hard then you should try playing the game with numbers up to 9 999 or nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine. If this is too easy, try somewhere in between.

Before you start you need to decide how you are going to record the game. One person could be responsible for the game card and record everyone’s moves on a whiteboard or a large piece of paper. Alternatively, each player could record on their own small piece of paper.

This is the format for recording the game if there are 2 players only:

Image shows a drawn table with place values from ones to millions across the top columns 2 to 8 and players names twice down  column one rows 2 to 5.

If you have more than 2 players you can choose to write each name once or still have dummy players. If you are using smaller numbers just use the places you need, for example Th (thousands), H (hundreds), T (tens), O (ones).

What your child needs to know and do

This is a very competitive game. It requires a knowledge and understanding of numbers up to 9 999 999. The aim of the game is to be the one who not only has the highest number next to their name, but can also say their number out loud. If they cannot do that the person with the next highest number who can say their number out loud is the winner. The winner gets 10 points and the person who comes second gets 5 points. Anyone left who can say their number gets 2 points. If you cannot say your number you get 0 points. Feel free to play around with the points system to suit your child.

What to do next

How to play the game.

Remove the 10s, 11, 12s, Kings, Queens and Jokers from the deck of cards, shuffle the cards and place the pack face down between the players. The Jack is equal to 0 in this game. Have your recording sheet ready.

Player 1 turns over the top card and makes a decision. They can choose to either put the number they have turned over on their own line as they try to get the highest number possible or, they can be nasty and put the number on one of their opponent’s lines and try to give them the lowest number possible.

For example, Mum goes first and immediately turns over a 1. She could be nice and put it in her ones place or even nicer and put it in an opponent’s ones place. Or, she could be nasty!

First player takes a turn
The first player has turned over an ace and chosen to record in the opponent's millions column.

It would be useful at this point to ask Glen what number he has and he should respond by saying one million. If you are Mum you could also explain your thinking. “I decided to put my one in Glen’s Millions place because that means the highest number he can get is 1 999 999.

Player 2 then takes their turn and once again can choose to be nice or nasty. For example, Glen turned over a 6. He did some strategic thinking and decided that as 6 is somewhere in the middle he would put it in the row that Mum has already targeted.

Second player's turn
The second player has turned over a 6 and put it in his own Thousands column.

Play continues until all rows and all columns are completed even if someone already has the largest number. Remember there is a points system.

The player with the largest number says their number out loud:

  • If they say it correctly they get 10 points. Then the person with the second highest number says their number out loud and if they say it correctly they get 5 points.

  • If the person with the highest number cannot say their number they get 0 points and the person with the second highest number has an opportunity to get the 10 points by saying their number correctly.

Here is the recording sheet at the end of the first game between Mum and Glen:

Complete recording sheet
Recording sheet at the end of the game. All rows and columns full.

As you can see, Glen got the highest number. Mum asked him to say his number out loud and he was able to say nine million eight hundred and seventy-eight thousand one hundred and ninety-four. This was correct so Glen got 10 points in that round. Mum got the second highest number but she made a mistake when reading her number out loud so she got 0 points!

Play the game as many times as you like. The points are cumulative.

Options for your child

Activity too hard?

Use smaller numbers. You can even go down as far as tens and ones only for this game. Slowly build up the size of the numbers each time you play the game. This is also useful when playing with younger siblings.

Play the nice game. This means that you can only put the numbers on your own lines.

Activity too easy?

Spend more time discussing the strategies used.

Introduce the secret rule. One player gets to choose a new rule for the game but does not tell the other players. The other players have to watch the player who has made up the new rule and work out what the secret rule is in order to win.

Examples of secret rules:

  • Must end up with an even number

  • Must have no nines

  • Must be the smallest number

  • Cannot be above 999 999 – strategically use 0s for this one.

Find the difference between the highest and lowest number using a mental strategy.

Extension/Additional activity

The Nasty Game is very adaptable and can easily be used to practice reading and understanding decimal place value.

Before trying this game please check that your child can read decimal numbers correctly and order them from highest to lowest.

Try checking by ordering these numbers:

0.345, 34.05, 34.5, 34.055, 5.304, 34.81

One your child has ordered them from highest to lowest, ask them to read them aloud. The lowest number should be read aloud as “three hundred and forty-five hundredths” not zero point three hundred and forty-five. The highest should be read as “thirty-four and eighty-one hundredths”.

Below are some examples of decimal place value recording sheets. The first ranges from tens to hundredths. The second has a range from hundreds to thousandths.

Decimal example 1
Recording sheet for playing using decimals numbers. Top row shows Tens, Ones, decimal point, Tenths, Hundredths. layesr names in left column. Decimals example 2
Recording sheet with Hundreds, Tens, Ones, decimal point, Tenths, Hundredths and Thousandths.

Many different people write about this game. You can find out more about one version of the game at NRICH from Cambridge University here: Nice or nasty.

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