Hit Me! (A Math Game)

Photo by paparutzi.

Math concepts: addition, subtraction, negative numbers, mental math, absolute value
Number of players: any number
Equipment: math cards (two decks may be needed for a large group)

Set Up

One player (the dealer) shuffles the math cards and deals one card face down for each player, beginning with the player on his left and proceeding in turn around the table. Then he deals one card face up beside each face down card.

How to Play

  • Players do not pick up their cards! Each player may peek at his own face down card as often as he likes, but it remains hidden from the other players until the end of the round. The card that is face up remains visible to all players.
  • Each player mentally calculates the sum of the numbers on his cards. Aces count as 1. Black cards (positive numbers) are added to the total; red cards (negative numbers) are subtracted. A player’s score may go below zero.
  • When all players have had a chance to check their cards, the dealer asks each in turn whether he wants a hit — an extra card, also dealt face up so everyone can see it. If the player wants the extra card, he says, “Hit me!” Last of all, the dealer may take a hit, if he wishes.
  • Then each player in turn has a chance to ask for a second hit, and then a third, and so forth.
  • Players may take up to 5 hits, for a maximum of 7 cards, or they may hold (stick with the cards they already have) at any time.


The round is over when all the players have either taken their maximum number of hits or refused any more cards. At the end of the round, each player turns his hidden card face up and announces his score.

The player with the lowest absolute value (the sum closest to zero, whether positive or negative) wins the round. When every player has had a chance to deal, whoever has won the most rounds is the champion.


  1. Keep a running total of each player’s scores. After everyone has dealt, the player who has the lowest total absolute value is the winner.
  2. Rather than bothering to keep score, we let the winner of each round deal the next one. If there is a tie, then whoever has not dealt recently gets a chance.


Hit Me (also called “Zero”) is the all-time favorite math game at our house. It is a variation on the traditional gambling game, Blackjack, in which players aim for a total of 21.

I am often surprised at the score it takes to win a hand of Hit Me. If I have a sum three or more, I will almost always lose unless I take another card. If I take the maximum number of hits, however, that is a sign of desperation. I remember one game when all the red cards came my way, for a total of -37, as I kept trying without luck for at least one black number — and my math club students were laughing and cheering at every hit I took!

8 thoughts on “Hit Me! (A Math Game)

  1. I am going to use this tomorrow!! I have been trying to find a fun way to do integers with my summer school kids! Thank you. (first year teaching and my first job is summer school 🙂

  2. This is a great way to practice/review adding & subtracting whole numbers. The students will be practicing and learning in a ‘fun’ way. I look forward to using this in my 5th grade math class! I know the students will love this activity!!

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