Swapping Number Game

Can you figure out which numbers have been switched?

Swapping Number Game with Numeral or Dice Rocks

This is a similar game to the Missing Number Game. Like that game, the Swapping Number Game provides the opportunity to practice recognising numbers and to play with the support of an adult. For older children (5-6 year olds) it can provide practice in their understanding of number order as well as playing independently with friends. Both situations provide the opportunity to learn and practice turn taking, sharing, and following the rules of a game. Games provide an excellent opportunity for children to practice listening to instructions and then following them. 

What you need

  • Numerals or objects with numerals or numbers on them (in this case I have used my number rocks)
  • 2+ people to play

For children just beginning to learn their numbers you could start with 3 or 4 numerals and as they become more confident you could use more. When I have played with 5 and 6 year olds we’ve used around 20 numbers (sometimes more or less depending on the children’s knowledge of and experience with numerals).

How to play

First allow children to play around with the numbers and put them in the correct order. If you like, you can show them how you count the numbers with a number line or 100 square by pointing to each numeral and then jumping up to the next one.

Then you can show them how to play:

Player 1 must close his/her eyes first. Then player 2 chooses two numbers to swap places. Player 1 then opens his eyes and has to look and see if he can figure out which numbers have been swapped. If they are struggling you may suggest some strategies to help such as starting at number 1 and then counting up to see if the numerals are correct. You may also need to prompt them with some questions (see below). If the children are still really struggling to do this it may be that there are too many numbers. You need to cut back the numbers until they become more confident in recognizing more numerals.

Questions to ask

  • What is one more than… 3 etc.? Is that the number that you see there? If not what number is it? Should that number be there?
  • Can you count from 1 to 5… 10…20? Show me!
  • What is one more or one less than … 5 etc.?
  • What comes after/before … 4?

What they get from it

This is a great activity for children to practice ordering numbers and to recall the correct order. It gives them the opportunity to further to further develop their understanding of the ordinal aspect of numbers. As I mentioned in my Numeral and Dice Rocks post, according to Haylock and Cockburn (2017) children are usually not given enough opportunities to learn about the ordinal (the order, e.g. like the order of the pages in a book) aspects of numbers as compared to the cardinal (the value of numbers). Playing games with adults and peers is a really important way for children to have positive interactions with others. They learn skills such as taking turns, managing their feelings and their behaviour. They develop self-awareness and learn ways to resolve conflicts.  Thus playing games is a fantastic way for children to develop the social emotional skills, which are increasingly thought to be a significant factor in their long-term academic achievement and success  (Konishi, C. & Wong, T., 2018).

Take it further

Please also see my post on the Missing Number Game which also helps children continue to develop their understanding of the order of numbers as well as to provide the opportunity to play games that develop the social emotional skills to equip them for life.

Once children become secure with numbers up to 20 and beyond, they can start to think about numbers to 100 by using 100 squares. Making 100 square puzzles are a great way for children to start to visualise a hundreds square which will help them to think about how our number system is organised (e.g. groups of 10) and will stand them in good stead for when they move on to addition and subtraction.


Haylock, D., & Cockburn, A. (2017). Understanding mathematics for young children (5th ed.). London: Sage Publications.

Konishi, C., & Wong, T. (2018).  Relationships and School Success: From a Social-Emotional Learning Prespective.  In Health and Academic Achievement.  Accessed 5 August 2019, www.intechopen.com/books/health-and-academic-achievement/relationships-and-school-success-from-a-social-emotional-learning-perspective


Leave a Reply