Teaching Place Value and Number Sense With a Magnetic Number Board

Updated on August 3, 2017
The Educational Insights Magnetic 100 Board
The Educational Insights Magnetic 100 Board | Source

Since my daughter has started school, I am always looking for ways at home to reinforce what she is learning in the classroom. One day, her teacher sent a note home that she had been struggling to count to 100. I tried a few different strategies at home, first. I had her count out loud to 100, or count 100 objects like beads or marshmallows, but none of these approaches were getting her to where she needed to be.

For a four-year-old, learning to count to 100 can be tedious and boring—even I get tired counting to 100! Once I was worn out from trying these repetitive ways to get my daughter to keep counting, I began investigating products that could make learning numbers more fun. After liking the concept of a 100 poster I saw, I searched for something a bit more tactile. I quickly came upon the Educational Insights Magnetic 100 Board.

It has now been about five months since I purchased this product, and I cannot believe how far my daughter has come in math. We have been doing other math activities at home besides just using this board, but I definitely think it had a critical role in her grasping the concept of numbers 1-100. Five months ago, she could only count to 30, and could only identify written numbers 1-20. Now, as she is about to enter kindergarten, she is able to identify place value of each digit in a three-digit number and explain to me conceptually what that means (i.e. 239 consists of two “100” blocks, 30 “tens” blocks, and nine “ones” blocks). I believe she is now prepared to keep up just fine in math at school.

Activities to Teach Number Sense 1 to 100 Using a Number Board

Number Matching

A tactile number board like this one is great for young learners who like to fidget with things. The very first activity I had my daughter do was take all of the number magnets off the board, and then match them back up to the printed number size. Then, we would go through and count to 100, pointing to each numeral as we counted.

Number Recognition

Once we were proficient at number matching, we came up with a new game in which we put all the magnets loose in the box, and I would pull them out one at a time. She would have to identify the number before putting the magnet in its place on the board. This takes a while, so you may not get through every number, but it is good practice even if you only get through some of them.

Base Ten and Place Value

The numbers are all in nice rows of ten. You can talk about how each end column (10, 20, 30, etc.) represents another “ten” block, and each number in between are “ones” blocks. You can then ask them to deconstruct the number on paper to show how many groups of tens and how many ones you need to get a certain number.

Skip Counting

I love doing skip counting with this number board. I simply put some numbers on the blank grid, and leave others blank. For example, if I want my child to count by two’s, I’ll leave all the 2’s, 4’s, 6’s, 8’s, and 10’s columns blank but still put the other magnets. I’ll have her either write in or find the other magnets to fill in the missing spots, and count out loud by two’s. You can do the same to teach counting by five, ten, and so on. To teach skip counting, I have had her take certain magnets (say 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. to count by five) and lined them up on the refrigerator as well.

The magnetic 100 board is great for teaching skip counting visually.
The magnetic 100 board is great for teaching skip counting visually. | Source

Addition and Subtraction

When teaching addition and subtraction to my daughter we initially used first counters, and then a number line. We reinforced those strategies with looking at the board and modeling addition or subtraction problems. We would start on a number and count up or down, depending on the problem. When doing addition and subtraction higher than 10, this board is great for visualizing problems and thinking in terms of 10. For the problem 30 minus 21, for example, you can have them start on the number 30 with their finger, count two groups of ten backwards, and then one “one” backwards. They will see that thinking in these terms is quicker than counting 21 individual squares backwards.


The blank grid side is useful for graphing. We have done activities such as going outside and counting how many white, pink, and yellow flowers we saw, and then creating a graph. You can create bar graphs or line graphs, and discuss the results.


We have not yet gotten to this yet except for at a very high level, but this board could be great for modeling percentages. You can have kids pick a spot on the board, and write that number as percentage on a separate piece of paper while referencing the 100 board as “100%.”

Educational Insights Magnetic 100 Board

Educational Insights Foam Magnetic Numbers with Board
Educational Insights Foam Magnetic Numbers with Board
The Educational Insights Magnetic 100 Board is a 10” by 10” two-sided board with 100 squares on each side. On one side, all of the numbers are printed from one to 100. On the other, there are simply 100 blank squares. Both sides have a dry erase surface, which will work with either dry erase or washable markers. There are 100 square magnets included—numbers one through 100. Each number piece is made up of a piece of red foam about ¼” thick, glued on to a thin magnet the same size as the foam square. The board has a hook on the non-numbered side. Pros There are a lot of great things about this magnetic 100 board. Some things I really like about it are: • Versatility—Even kids who don’t know numbers can still match magnets to their corresponding place on the board, while older kids can do more advanced activities • Double-sided surface • Dry erase ability • The feel of the magnets (although the numbers start fading, see below) • Its size—it fits nicely on my daughter’s lap, on a table, or on a mini desk Cons Every product has some drawbacks and areas that could be improved. A few things I would change about this board are: • The surface of each magnetic number cube—after a while, the ink on the numbers starts to fade • Add a hook to both sides for more versatility • Include a dry erase marker with the product • Add a carrying case, or improve packaging—after two uses the box was already worn out Cleanup is a bit of a hassle. I like to have the board put away with all 100 magnets in order, and that sometimes means me putting them back myself because my daughter is already tired from whatever activity we were working on. It is also a good thing that it takes a few minutes to put the numbers on the board, though. If the child is doing it, it gives them more time looking at each number and at 100 as a whole.
The numbers do fade after a while, but are still perfectly legible.
The numbers do fade after a while, but are still perfectly legible. | Source
Practicing writing the numbers 1-100 is more fun on a slippery dry erase surface!
Practicing writing the numbers 1-100 is more fun on a slippery dry erase surface! | Source
The 100 board easily wipes clean with a damp cloth or paper towel.
The 100 board easily wipes clean with a damp cloth or paper towel. | Source

Why I Recommend the Magnetic 100 Board

Having a kid learning something by practice it repetitively is not always successful. Little ones often have shorter attention spans, and have a harder time learning in the same ways we might learn. This board appeals to easily distracted or tactile learners (those who need to physically touch something to grasp a concept). No matter what activity you are doing with the 100 board, it takes time to place each magnet in its spot, or to write each number. The magnets are fun to touch, and it’s fun to write on a dry erase board. My daughter actually asks to “play” with this board all the time. I can’t say the same for some other activities or worksheets we do at home.

If you have a child who is preschool aged through first grade, I highly recommend this board. It will do so much more than a poster or worksheet can to develop number sense. By physically touching and manipulating the numbers 1-100, I believe kids are building a stronger mental picture of the numbers, and are better prepared for more complex math concepts later on. If your little one is struggling a bit, or even if you just want a little extra practice for your child, I hope you’ll try this 100 board and see the results like I did.

What Strategies Have You Used with Your Child?

How have you practiced number sense and counting to 100 with your child?

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