Playing Cards for Math Games? Heck Yeah! Recently, I heard a teacher say that they didn’t have time for playing games during math. I get it, math blocks are tight and there is a lot to cover in a limited amount of time. Honestly, though, the comment made me feel sad.
In my opinion, playing games is a wonderful way to reinforce learning engagingly. It’s fun and games teach important social skills! Maybe you can’t get to games every day but I would suggest at least one afternoon a week is devoted to reviewing with math games. I promise engagement will increase! Not to mention the mental math that is taking place and a great option for early finishers.
When children play games together, they not only practice skills but learn how to lose and how to win with courtesy. (Okay, sometimes the courtesy aspect can have a longer learning curve than you hope for – but they will get there!) School is not just academics, it is also where children learn how to interact socially.
Some of my favorite math games can be played with a simple deck of playing cards. We use the Ace as a 1 and the Jack as a 10 or you can pull out the face cards completely. To extend student learning you could make the face cards multiples of 10.
There are so many variables! Jack = 10, Queen = 11, King = 12, etc. Just make sure to write them down beforehand so you don’t forget 😉 just sayin’
Here are a few of my favorites:
This is probably my favorite, it is a differentiation dream! This game is great for 3 – 4 players. Deal out five cards in a row, face-up. Set the deck down and turn over a card on the other side, this is your target number. Players have to add or subtract any of the five cards together to create a numerical model with the target number as the sum. The objective is to use as many of the cards as you can in your sequence. Each of the five cards can be used only once. Players keep all the cards they use and the target number. Deal out more cards from the deck for the next player, always keeping 5 on one side, If a player can’t make the target number their turn is over. A new card is turned over on the target number side for the next player.
In the example, the player would keep the 8, 2, 6 and 4 cards. To differentiate, take the number model beyond addition and subtraction with multiplication or division.
Fishing For 10
This game is just like “Go Fish” but you make pairs of 10 (Use the Ace as a 1 and the Jack as a 10) Deal out five cards and put the deck in the center. Players take turns (3-4 players is best) and make combinations of 10 from their cards. For example, 2+8, 3+7, 4+6, 5+5, Ace + 9, etc. If a player can’t make a ten, they ask another player for a specific card. If that player doesn’t have the card they have to, “go fish”. Players with the most pairs win when the deck is gone. Players always keep five cards in their hand. If they make a pair, they draw two more, if they give over a card and they no longer have five, they draw again. Players only put down their pairs when it is their turn. This is one of the first games I teach at the beginning of the year in second grade.
This game is another all-time favorite with my students. This game is best with just 3 players. Each player is a side of an imaginary fact family. There is the “brain” at the top and the two other players are each one side of the (imaginary) triangle. Once the two players have drawn a card, without looking, they place it on their forehead, number side out. The ‘brain’ then tells them the sum.
They should be sitting so they can see each other’s foreheads. Using the sum, the try and the other player’s card they have to figure out what number they are holding. For example, the “brain” says the sum is 8. One player can see that the other is holding up a 5 on his forehead so they know they have a 3 and shout it out. Whichever player guesses their card first gets all the cards from the round. The hardest part of this game is getting the card up to your forehead without peeking! Caution: this game gets loud! 🙂
Tips for storing playing cards when not in use –
For each deck of cards, I use inexpensive bar soapboxes from Walmart or the Dollar Store. You can also find decks of cards at either of these stores for cheap! #winwin #teacherwin The biggest tip that I found is to try and find cards with different patterns on the decks. I know that isn’t always easy but different colors will also work. One year, I had a lovely parent donate several decks of cards to my classroom. The only problem was that they were all the same. Do you get where I am heading with this?
Yep, they are easy to get mixed up. One deck has five Aces, another has no 9’s. You get the picture. On the bright side, it’s good counting practice to make sure the decks have 52 cards each. You could also have the maintenance of the cards and math manipulatives be a classroom job for a few students. The photo to the left is a pack of 4 different 6decks at Dollar Tree that are used Las Vegas cards (isn’t that kind of weird but I guess #upcycle is better than tossing them in the trash)
I hope you found this helpful and are encouraged to make time for games in your classroom! If you already play card games let me know, I would love to add more to my list of options.
Until next time,