Math Games based on Playing Cards.

The game ideas below are for children 4 upwards and primarily work on developing quantity sense, computational skills, usage of operands and understanding many of the arithmetic concepts.

Why Games? They are fun, involving, lead to a lot of open thinking; within a game a concept is reinforced number of times and typically lead the players to keep thinking about the game long after it is over.

Why playing cards? - Many advantages - they are cheap, available anywhere, easy to handle and versatile. A pack has all the numbers children need (0-13 taking jokers for 0) in four types. Also playing cards have "picture count" of the number ( a 4 of hearts will have four hearts drawn on it).

Some Notes:

  1. Below are only "ideas" - so play the game the way you want to play - you can vary anything. The games can be simplified or made complicated (scaled) based on the age of children. Let the children lead (see 2 below)
  2. Lets the child make new rules  and variations of the game - this leads to a lot of thinking and understanding. If working with younger children, restrict the pack to 10 (remove the picture cards - that is jack, queen, king). Jokers can be either removed or used as wild cards, or as zero.
  3. Let children have loads of discussion on what is a right or wrong play. Don't intervene too soon. A flared up discussion is good for mathematical learning.
  4. Let children use manipulatives (like beans or matchsticks) or pen and paper, if required, to prove their play.
  5. You can also provide them with multiplication charts - for them to find the best move (our presupposition -  investigative play reinforces mathematical facts (like tables) much better than direct memorization)
  6. Though many of the games below we have 'thought' ourselves, we claim no copyright. ( We are sure somebody could already be playing these, or a variation of these games).

1. Hand-Full
Deal one card each. Decide the target number. Players play in turns. Now each player picks up (in turn) a card form the reserve pile and tries to make the target number using all the cards in the player's hand. The idea is to use different operands like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division etc to make the target number. The player after picking up a card - decides to either call "got-it" or "pass" or discard a card. As soon as one player is able to make the target number - he says "got-it" and wins. However at any point the player has to use all the cards in the hand to reach the target number.
The game can be made more interesting by making the starting number in each deal increase - round 1 is with one starting card, round two is with two starting cards and so on...
Example:
target number is 47
A Player in four turns - picks up 6, 9, 2 and 5 and hence makes ((9-2)x6)+5)=47

2. Zero is hero
Deal 10 cards to each player. Now each player tries to make the final answer as zero - using ALL their 10 cards and different mathematical operands. If the first player is not able to make - he draws a card from the reserve pile and now discards any one card and with the balance 10 cards tries to make it zero - the game goes on till one player gets to zero. Instead of zero you can choose any other target number also.
Here the number of cards in hand always remain same (10)

3. Multiples rummy
Deal 12 cards to each player. Decide which number's multiples we play - say 6. Now each player has to group two or more cards to form multiples of 6. So 3 & 4 make a valid set (makes 3x4=12), 5, 4 and 2 make a valid set (5x4-2=18)  and so on. Play like rummy - draw a card and discard a card on every turn - till all 12 cards make valid sets and you close to win!
Instead of multiples the sets could be all perfect squares (4,9,16,25,), all prime numbers, and so on.

4. Challenge my Number
Deal 6 cards to each player. Player-1 says a challenge number and also throws one card. Now Player-2 using any one of his card and the thrown card - tries to make the the challenge number. If player 2 cannot - he now throws one of his card - so now we have two cards on the table. Its player-1's turn now to make the challenge number using two cards on table as well as one card from his hand. Game goes on till one player is able to get-it. Can be played with more than two players.
Example:
Player1 says 25 as the challenge number and throws a 6 down.
Player2 is not bale to make 25 using 6 and one more card, so throws a 3 down
Player2 has a 7 and hence makes (6x3)+7=25 and wins

5. Chutney or war game
This is the good old war game which kids love - two (or more) players. Full pack is equally divided amongst the players. Decide on what 'rule' you will decide the winner. Each player opens top card from their pile and based on the 'rule' the winner takes all the cards in the play area. If tie, the winner of the next round takes all the cards.
1 card chutney - basis: bigger / smaller wins; odd or even number wins; multiples of a number wins and so on.
2 card chutney (open together) - basis: bigger / smaller based on sum of the two cards, (or multiplication or subtraction or division or so on

6. Closest To
Target number is decided. Played same as chutney (5 above), each player opens 3 (or 4) cards from the respective piles. Using my cards, I try to make the result as close to the target number. The one closest, wins all the cards.

7. Memory marriage
Cards are spread out face down. Open one and then open another - if you satisfy the "rule" you keep those two cards - otherwise you close them back and then the other person tries. Rule can be - all prime numbers, or all multiples of a particular number or summation equal to 10, or any other rule.

8. Smack
Decide on a target number. Open four cards in common play area. Whoever can think of a way to make the target - puts hands down and says got-it. Target number can be a specific number or a category of numbers (eg any prime number, multiples of 5) or any other rule. If no one can make - on additional card is opened.
Example: Target is any prime number
Cards on the table are 2,5,6,and 10
I can say smack using 10+2+6-5 = 13

9 Family Pick
Open all the cards on the table. Set the "family rule" (say prime numbers, or multiple of 'X' etc). By turn each child makes a number - using 2 to 4 cards - so that the cards together, as a family, satisfy the rule. (eg 2+8+9+4  make a prime number). The player can use any operands to make the number. The player picks these cards as his score. Game can be played by turns or for lot of noisy fun - play it like a race - all together.

10 Lucky Two
Biggest wins. Now deal twelve cards each. Player-1 calls out an operand (addition or subtraction or multiplication etc). Now each player chooses two cards trying to make the biggest number (and puts this pair face down). Once all the players have placed their pair down, all are opened and compared - the one with the biggest result number wins all the open cards. In case of tie the next round winner wins the cards. Next round the player-2 decides the operand. One can decide the operand favouring one's own cards. Variation - play with smallest wins.

11 Order Order
Make a pile of 40 cards (without the picture cards). This is primarily for smaller children - getting them to put the cards in the number-value-order and making a complete suit (ace to 10). Players pick a card from the pile, in turn. They can either keep the card or discard it - the objective being to be the first one to have - in hand - exactly 10 cards  - from ace to 10 (any suit). Variations - all even cards should of one colour (say black) and all odd of the other colour (red); Or one child collects only even numbers and other child collects only odd numbers; and so on.

12 Match and catch
Ten cards are opened common amidst the players. Rest of the pile is kept as 'pick' card pile. A rule of 'is X more' or 'is X less' or either is established - eg: "is 2 more". Each player picks up one card (in turn) - eg (I picked 5) from the pick pile). Then you try to "book" an open card which satisfies the rule - in our example 7 "is 2 more" (than 5). If player is able to book (7 is available), the player wins both cards. If no, the picked card is discarded and added to the open cards. The round goes on till either you run out of open cards or pick cards. Change the "rules"
as you wish.

13 Win Spin
Common pile in the center. Each round will have three dealings - with rules of largest wins, smallest wins and closest to middle wins, respectively. Typically the first round is with one card. So open one card for each player. In the first dealing, the biggest card wins, the next dealing smallest and the third dealing the one closest to middle number (i.e closest to 5) wins. In the second round - two cards - are opened per player. Using these two cards as two digits - one as tens digit and one as units digit, each player forms a two digit number. Again first deal the biggest two digit number wins and second deal smallest wins and third deal the one closest to middle (50) wins. In third round three cards are dealt and each forms three digit numbers and so on.
Example:
Round 1 Deal 1: Player1 gets 4 and player2 gets 6 so player2 wins as his is bigger
Round 1 Deal 2: Player1 gets 9 and player2 gets 11 so player1 wins as his is smaller
Round 1 Deal 3: Player1 gets 6 and player2 gets 3 so player1 wins as his is closet to middle (5)

Round 2 Deal 1: Player1 gets 5&7 - makes 57 and player2 gets 2&8 - makes 82 - so player2 wins as his is bigger
Round 2 Deal 2: Player1 gets 3&9 - makes 39 and player2 gets 4&1 - makes 14 - so player2 wins as his is smaller
Round 2 Deal 3: Player1 gets 7&3 - makes 37 and player2 gets 2&8 -makes 28 so player1 wins as his is closet to middle number (50)

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