The Mental Addition Game That’s Really a Multiplication Game (Race to 100, Advanced Version)

Knowing how to add a 1-digit number to a 2-digit number mentally is essential for mastering the times tables. Use this scripted lesson and fun game to teach your child this important mental addition skill and get her ready to memorize the multiplication facts. 

Stepping-stone facts are one of the fastest and easiest ways for children to master the multiplication facts. But first, children have to be skilled at adding a 1-digit number to a 2-digit number mentally.

To teach your child this vital skill, begin with the scripted lesson below. Then, encourage your child to use the same strategy as you play this advanced version of Race to 100. Make sure to keep your ten-frames handy!

(Excerpted from Multiplication Facts That Stick. Parent’s words are in quotation marks and child’s sample answers are in italics.)



  • 16 small counters
  • Paper and pencil
  • Ten-frames, cut apart on the dotted lines (See the link at the bottom of the page to download your own printable ten-frames.)

Write 29 + 3 = on a piece of paper. “We’ll use ten-frames and counters to show this problem. Ten-frames are just grids with 10 dots in them.”

“Instead of using 29 counters to show the problem, we’re going to save time and use 2 ten-frames that are already filled in. Each dot in a ten-frame stands for a counter.” Place two full ten-frames and one empty ten-frame on the table. Fill the empty ten-frame with 9 counters from left to right.

“There are 2 tens, plus 9 more counters, for a total of 29. Now, we need to add 3.” Place 3 counters of another color next to the ten-frames. 

“Let’s fill in the empty spot in the ten-frame to make it easier to see the answer to the problem.” Move 1 loose counter to the empty spot in the ten-frame.

“How many tens are filled in now?” 3.

“How many loose counters are there?” 2.

“So, what’s 29 + 3?” 32. (If your child’s not sure, ask, “What do the 3 tens equal?” 30. “So, what’s 30 and 2 more?” 32.)

Repeat this process with the following problems. Each time, have her complete the empty boxes in the partially-full ten-frame to make it easier to find the answer.


Race to 100 Directions


  • 5s, 6s, 7s, 8s, 9s, and 10s a deck of cards
  • Paper and pencil
  • 20 small counters
  • Ten-frames, cut apart on the dotted lines (See the link at the bottom of the page for your own printable ten-frames.)

Object of the Game

Be the first player to reach 100.


Shuffle the cards and place them in a face-down pile. On your turn, flip over a card. Add the number on the card to your score. The first player whose score is 100 or higher wins.

Encourage your child to use the ten-frames and counters as needed to figure out his new total. As he becomes more confident at mental addition, see if he can solve the problems simply by visualizing the ten-frames rather than modeling the problem with physical counters.

9 thoughts on “The Mental Addition Game That’s Really a Multiplication Game (Race to 100, Advanced Version)”

  1. Sorry you’re having trouble with the download, Susie! Please feel free to send me an email at the Contact link (under “About” above), and I’ll get you all set.

    Happy Math!

    • Hi Jan,

      I’m not a huge fan of relying on songs for learning the multiples. It takes more work, but kids develop deeper number sense when they learn mental addition techniques and use those to figure out the sequences rather than relying on rote memory. The other potential issue is that kids who learn songs often end up counting on their fingers for the facts rather than learning the multiplication facts by heart. (For example, to find 7 times 6, they count on their fingers up to 7 while they say the multiples of 6.)

      That said, songs can be a huge help for kids who struggle with math, especially kids with significant learning disabilities. If mental addition creates too much of a cognitive load, it makes sense to use the skip-counting approach to help move a child along in their math learning.

      Happy Math!

  2. What is a small counter? I don’t understand what you mean by that. Do you mean a physical small object that they physically set on the 10 frame? Like a bean?

  3. Hi Kate!
    Love your stuff! We use Singapore Math but supplement frequently from your “Facts That Stick” series as well as the great lessons on distance, measurement, and shapes.
    Do you have an opinion on Times Tales (at least I think that’s the name!) Is this the same as the songs approach you weren’t keen on (from the other parent’s question?) A friend mentioned they’d helped her child with dyscalculia and I believe the made numbers into characters to memorize? Is this an approach you wouldn’t recommend?


    • Hi Christi,

      I definitely don’t recommend programs like Times Tales that rely on rote memorization as the primary approach for mastering the multiplication facts. If kids only memorize, they often miss out on conceptual understanding of multiplication and the important number sense that comes from seeing how the multiplcation facts relate to each other. Rote memorization programs like Times Tales are sometimes helpful as a secondary method for building speed and fluency after that conceptual understanding is solid, especially for kids with dyscalculia or processing challenges.

      Happy Math!


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