Win/Lose A Flat

Years 2 - 6


This is a very powerful activity when used as described. It develops place value understanding and improves facility with almost every number skill from 1:1 correspondence to operations. However if it is only used once in a while the power of the activity will not show. It is a perfect example of an activity that must be threaded.

You can find evidence of the value of Win A Flat used as a threaded activity amongst the fabulous teacher presentations in our Professional Development link.


  • Boards about 28 x 38 cm which have columns headed FLATS, STICKS and MINIS, or have pictures of these pieces. Create your own or use this board and enlarge to A3.
  • Dice (2 per group of three children)
  • Calculators (2 per group of three children)
  • MAB 10 (referred to below as wood)
Win A Flat Game


If the game is managed as described below, the teacher is released from class control and can use the time to study and record children's developing understandings and skills. For example:
I always try to use dot dice rather than numeral dice. Then I soon establish those who can 'look' at the dice and know the number, those who who have to count all the spots to decide the number, and those who count on from the larger number showing on the two dice to decide the total. As time passes, I can see the children changing their strategies.
To play the game each group needs two dice, a collection of MAB 10, and a calculator for each Player. It works well if the children are grouped in threes. One person is the Dice Roller and the other two are the Players.

The aim of the game is to continue the exchanging process described until one player collects a Flat and wins. The winner becomes the Dice Roller for the next round.

  1. Each Player begins with a zero on their calculator.
  2. The Dice Roller rolls AND the dice must be left where they have fallen until all steps are completed.
  3. Player A has to pick up minis equal to the total of the dice and place them in the correct column. However this does not complete the move. Player A must then exchange for the next size of wood if possible and press ... [+] [dice total] [=] ... on their calculator.


  • 1:1 correspondence
  • addition facts beyond 10
  • addition facts to 10
  • complementary addition
  • counting
  • group (or skip) counting
  • making/recording groups of 10
  • mathematical conversation
  • numeral recognition
  • operations - whole number
  • place value
  • recording - calculator
  • recording - written
  • subitising
  • subtraction
  • visual and kinaesthetic representation of number

  1. The Dice Roller controls the game and does not pick up the dice to roll for Player B until Player A's wood number and calculator number match.
  2. The dice always tell the number of minis to pick up and the calculator always shows the progressive total for each player. This makes the game very easy for the teacher to supervise because, simply by looking at a player's wood collection and comparing it with their calculator number, the teacher can tell if the game is being played correctly.
  3. Players take turns to continue the roll/collect minis/exchange/record on the calculator process until one player gathers sufficient wood to Win A Flat and become the Dice Roller.

Children from Maidavale State School, a small, one-teacher, rural school in Queensland, play Win A Flat in cross-age groups of three mixing children from Year 1 through to Year 7. They sometimes continue the game in these groups in 'free choice' times too.

The game can be stopped at any time and taken up again from the same place on another day. Players need only record their current wood collection in their journal and whose turn it is to play next.


  • Lose A Flat begins with both Players possessing a Flat and displaying 100 on their calculator. The dice then tell the number of Minis to put back. The winner in this case is the first one to put back all their wood. Clearly the first step forced on each player is to exchange their Flat for Sticks and then one Stick for Minis before they can put back.
  • What happens if the Flat is worth 1 in Win A Flat, instead of the Mini being worth 1? How do you use the calculator then? This gives the activity new life in Years 4+ as the children begin to learn about decimals.
  • Claire Campbell, St. Matthew's Primary School, Page, Year 2
    Claire added to Win A Flat in two ways. She asked her children to write about the game in their journal (as shown) and she encouraged some of her students to develop the game into Win A Cube. Again, Claire encouraged literacy to grow in this mathematics context as shown below.


Claire writes:

August 7th
Last Friday I got my bright sparks to work on Win a Cube they had to design the game board and write down how to play the game, they have made a start and we now need to refine it, as well as purchase some dice with more than six sides to get the game moving a bit faster.

August 23rd
The kids are still using four dice to play this game as I keep forgetting to buy dice of higher value.

It seems nothing will stand in the way of children who want to reach a big number like 1000. If your school is a member of Maths300 you will find that observation confirmed in Lesson 49, Making 1000.

Win A Cube

After this start, children and teacher worked together to come up with this final board design
which can be enlarged to A3.

MAB Shop

An activity that complements Win/Lose A Flat is a Classroom Shop. Children bring packets from home marked with the real price their parents paid. In a corner of the room set up the shop complete with Checkout. The currency in this shop is MAB 10 so the Checkout will need a supply and a calculator.

Children go to the shop in the same groups of three as their Win A Flat teams. Two are the shoppers and one is the Checkout person. The children take turns in this role. Shoppers have $10 to spend in the form of ten flats. They choose their purchases, offer their 'money' and receive change exactly as in a real shop (except that everything goes back on the shelves when the group's time allotment is finished).

Each child records their shopping experience for this day in their maths journal, including the check out person who records what both customers bought, cost for each and change.

Calculating Changes members can complement MAB Shop with the activity Two Dollar Shop, in which the Poly Plugs are used as coins. They can also access Davina & Friends Learn to Subtract which relates how the threaded use of Win A Flat, MAB Shop and other place value activities in one classroom led to children confidently creating and using their own algorithms for subtraction. The importance of child-created algorithms is also confirmed in the story Violet Blossoms.

Further, CCh Members will find Doug Clarke's research paper Young Children and the Teaching of Algorithms: What Does Research Show? important reading in conjunction with these two stories.

Note: Maths300 members can also access Davina & Friends through Lesson 96, Take Away of the Day.
Children at St. Patrick's School, Cooma, play the game without the Dice Roller.
Compare with the photo at the top of the page.
What might be different about the learning and the learning environment?

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