Math Game Monday: Salute

“Salute” is free on this website for one week only. It’s an excerpt from Multiplication & Fractions: Math Games for Tough Topics, available as an ebook at my bookstore (Thank you for cutting out the middleman!) and in ebook or paperback through many online retailers. Read more about my playful math books here.

Many parents remember struggling to learn math. We hope to provide a better experience for our children.

And one of the best ways for children to enjoy learning is through hands-on play.

Help children review times-table facts while they practice the inverse relationship between multiplication and division.

Salute may be the only game in my books where speed is a factor. Players should be closely matched in their skill level — or use the House Rule that calls for taking turns.


Math Concepts: multiplication, division, factors, inverse operations, speed of recall.

Players: three.

Equipment: one deck of playing cards, face cards removed.

How to Play

This game reinforces the inverse relationship between multiplication and division: If you know the product of two numbers, and you know one of the numbers, you can divide to find the other number. Inverse operations such as multiplication and division are closely related and should be studied together.

Players sit where they can all see each other’s faces. Dealer gives one card, face down, to each of the other two players. Players must not look at their own cards.

Then the dealer says, “1, 2, 3, Salute!” On the word “Salute,” players raise their cards to their forehead, with the numbers facing outward so the other players can see. The dealer multiplies the two cards and says, “The product is __.”

The first player to (correctly) say the number on his or her own card wins the trick and collects both cards. Keep your captured cards face up beside you, to avoid confusing them with future hands. Then the dealer passes the deck to the left, and that player deals the next pair of cards.

When the deck is finished, the player who has collected the most cards wins the game.


For beginners, play with a partial deck: remove the cards for numbers they haven’t studied. For older students, play with the face cards for a greater challenge: jack = eleven, queen = twelve, and king = thirteen.

Triple Salute: Deal a card to all three players. When the dealer says “Salute,” all players raise their cards. Multiply the two cards you can see and say the product out loud. The first player to deduce his or her own card’s value from these clues and name it aloud takes the trick and collects all three cards.

House Rule: Do your kids get frustrated by math games that require speed? Have the dealer supervise two hands before passing the deck. With the first pair of cards, the player to the dealer’s left tries to name his or her number without having to race the other player. For the second pair, the other player gets to guess. A correct answer entitles the guesser to both cards from that hand. If the answer is wrong, the dealer shuffles those cards back into the deck.


Constance Kamii wrote about this game in Teaching Children Mathematics magazine. [Kamii, C., & Anderson, C. (2003). Multiplication games: How we made them and used them. Teaching Children Mathematics, 10(3), 135-141.]

Usually I avoid any math game that depends on speed, but Salute gives students a wonderful introduction to thinking about inverse operations. Division is the inverse of multiplication, so children can solve division problems by thinking, “How many would I have to multiply that number by, to get this product?”

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