Throwback Thursday: How I Teach Regrouping

One of my favorite math concepts to teach has
always been regrouping!
I just love the methods, games,  and ideas I have learned
over the years on how to teach regrouping {which can be such a tough concept}
and enjoy watching my students really "get" it!

A few years ago, when I taught second grade, I put together
a regrouping packet and I just finished updating the look and fonts this week.
The activities are still the same, but they just look a little fresher. :)

 One of my most popular posts has been one called The Trading Game.
This game is probably one of the BEST things you could have
your students play before they learn to regroup.
Before you even mention the word REGROUP, 
please teach this simple and fun game to your students!!!
Trust me!!!
 It makes learning regrouping a lot easier
because they understand the "trading" part of it all.
So my throwback for today is my original post on The Trading Game and
I hope if you do teach regrouping to your students,
that this will be useful for you!
If you need more ideas on teaching regrouping, check out
my unit in my TpT shop here!
Which happens to be on sale along with everything else in my shop
today through Saturday! 

Originally posted on September 3, 2011

A Trading Game

I thought I'd share with you one of my FAVORITE
math games to have my students
play at the beginning of the year.

This game is very simple, but does
a whole lot to prepare them for regrouping or
"borrowing", which can be a huge
challenge for some kiddos.

I learned this game at a workshop a few years
ago and I've had my students play it ever since.
They absolutely LOVE it and
I LOVE it because it is sooooo meaningful.

I'm sure this game is not anything new and it may have different names that it 
goes by out in bloggy world.
The presenter I heard about it from called the
game "3 Town" or "5 Town" depending
on the way you decide to have your kiddos play.

Since the game is focusing on "trading",
you can tell the kids that this game is all
about a land where "3" is the number for 
You really play it up.
I use examples like, "Everyone is '3 Town' eats
3 meals a day, have 3 kids, 3 pets, 3 cars, 3 houses, etc.."
They think its quite fun and like to come up with their own
examples too!

 Here are the supplies you will need:
Gameboards- When I moved to second a few years ago, I found a handful of these in a closet.
When I attended the workshop, I realized what they were. I had to make the rest which was not difficult at all. Just construction paper, ruler, glue, sharpie, and then laminated.

Colored poker chips- I bought a bag of 1000 from Teacher Direct a few years ago.
The colors are yellow, green, blue, red. You could use any colors as long as they
match the boards you use.


Chip holders- I really like using these chip/dip trays I found in Target's dollar spot to keep the chips organized.


  • I like to put 4 kids in a group so 1 will be the "banker" (in charge of the chips) and the other 3 will be playing and each need a gameboard. 
  • The "banker" (I choose the banker for each group) is the only person allowed to touch the chip tray and take chips in and out.
  •  1 player rolls the dice. They ask the banker for that many YELLOW chips.
  • Since the game is "3 Town", every time a player gets 3 YELLOW chips they can trade in for the next color, so on my gameboards that is BLUE.

  • If they can trade in their chips, they need to do it before the end of their turn, or before they pass the dice to the next player. 
Example: Player rolls a '5'. Player says to the banker, "Can I please have 5 YELLOW chips?"
(We practice our please and thank you's a lot during this game!)
The "banker" then gives them 5 YELLOW and the player puts them on their gameboard in the YELLOW column.
The player will then take 3 of the newly acquired chips and ask the banker, "Can I please trade these 3 YELLOW in for 1 BLUE?"
The "banker" takes the chips and gives the player 1 BLUE, who then places it on their gameboard.
If the player decides they can not trade in anything else, they pass the dice on to the next player.

  • Every time they roll they get YELLOW chips. That is always the "starting point" on their gamboard and they have to trade in to get the next color.  Some will forget and think they should get BLUE chips on their 2nd turn, but usually other players will remind them. ;)

  • When a player gets 3 BLUE, they can trade in for 1 GREEN.

  • If they get 3 GREEN, they can trade in for 1 RED. The first player to get 1 RED chip is the winner!
I told you it was simple:)
But, seriously, the kids get addicted to this game.

So, the 2nd or 3rd time we play, I'll switch it up and we will play
"5 Town" and so then they must get 5 YELLOW chips to be able
to trade for 1 BLUE, etc...

  • Model, model, model. The first day I introduce the game, students are watching me play and I usually have 1 or 2 other kids "play" with me as we go through an entire game for everyone to watch.
  • I am picky about the "banker" handing the chips to the player. Sometimes, they want to just put it on the player's board for them. We talk about how each player needs to be in charge of their board and its their job to PAY ATTENTION and realize when they can make a trade! Some kiddos like to run everyone's board so we talk about this a lot.
  • During a player's turn, they can make as many trades as they need too, but they only roll 1 time each turn. If they pass the dice and the next player starts to roll, they can't make a trade until their next turn.
  • If a group finishes, they can start over and the winner will become then new "banker".
When we start regrouping in early October,
it's great to be able to use phrases like "Now we're going to trade in 10 ones for 1 ten"
with the kids and they know exactly what that means
because they've been playing the trading game!


Join in on the Throwback Thursday fun!
Link up with Cara here!


  1. I'm so glad that you reposted this! My students have always had a hard time with regrouping and I've been racking my brain to figure out some type of visual or game for them to practice regrouping. Thank you for sharing!

    Teaching Special Kids

  2. I love this! Thank you for sharing...I'm making the gameboards now :)

    Lesson Plans & Lattes

  3. Hi! I found your blog through the Throwback Thursday Linky and I am your newest follower! This game is great!! I taught 2nd grade for 11 years and this is a perfect way to introduce regrouping. Games are such a wonderful way to introduce a concept! I will definitely share this post with my 2nd grade friends...and try it out at the end of this next school year in my classroom ( I will be teaching 1st this year). Can't wait! I know they will love it! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Beth :)
    A Kindergarten Life For Me

  4. Thank you so much for posting this game!!!I teach 3rd grade and although the kiddos should already know how to regroup, there are a few who don't understand it. This game will be great! I am a new follower=)
    TGIF-Third Grade Is Fun

  5. Similar to the rest of the posts, I also thank you for re-posting this!

  6. Thank you so much for re-posting this! I am definitely pinning this to use! Thank you so much :) It is a great idea to help with regrouping.