Math Concepts: basic facts of addition, multiplication. Players: one. Equipment: one deck of math cards (poker- or bridge-style playing cards with the face cards and jokers removed).
The best way to practice the math facts is through the give-and-take of conversation, orally quizzing each other and talking about how you might figure the answers out. But occasionally your child may want a simple, solitaire method for review.
Math Concepts: sorting by attribute (card suits), counting up, counting down, standard rank of playing cards (aces low). Players: two or more, best with four to six. Equipment: one complete deck of cards (including face cards), or a double deck for more than six players. Provide a card holder for young children.
How to Play
Deal out all the cards, even if some players get more than others. The player to the dealer’s left begins by playing a seven of any suit. If that player does not have a seven, then the play passes left to the first player who does.
After that, on your turn you may lay down another seven or play on the cards that are already down. If you cannot play, say, “Pass.”
Once a seven is played in any suit, the six and the eight of that suit may be played on either side of it, forming the fan. Then the five through ace can go on the six in counting-down order, and the nine through king can go on the eight, counting up. You can arrange these cards to overlap each other so the cards below are visible, or you can square up the stacks so only the top card is seen.
Math Concepts: multiples, factors, composite numbers, and primes. Players: only two. Equipment: pair of 6-sided dice, 10 squares each of two different colors construction paper, and the game board (click the image to print it, or copy by hand).
On your turn, roll the dice and make a 2-digit number. Use one of your colored squares to mark a position on the game board. You can only mark one square per turn.
If your 2-digit number is prime, cover a PRIME square.
If any of the numbers showing are factors of your 2-digit number, cover one of them.
BUT if there’s no square available that matches your number, you lose your turn.
The first player to get three squares in a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) wins. Or for a harder challenge, try for four in a row.
Feature photo at top of post by Jimmie via flickr (CC BY 2.0). This game was featured in the Math Teachers At Play (MTaP) math education blog carnival: MTaP #79. Hat tip: Jimmie Lanley.
Math Concepts: addition to thirty-one, thinking ahead. Players: best for two. Equipment: one deck of math cards.
How to Play
Lay out the ace to six of each suit in a row, face up and not overlapping, one suit above another. You will have one column of four aces, a column of four twos, and so on—six columns in all.
The first player flips a card upside down and says its number value. Players alternate, each time turning down one card, mentally adding its value to the running total, and saying the new sum out loud. The player who exactly reaches thirty-one, or who forces the next player to go over that sum, wins the game.
Math Concepts: counting up to five, thinking ahead. Players: two or more. Equipment: none.
How to Play
Each player starts with both hands as fists, palm down, pointer fingers extended to show one point for each hand. On your turn, use one of your fingers to tap one hand:
If you tap an opponent’s hand, that person must extend as many extra fingers on that hand (in addition to the points already there) as you have showing on the hand that tapped. Your own fingers don’t change.
If you force your opponent to extend all the fingers and thumb on one hand, that makes a “dead hand” that must be put behind the player’s back, out of the game.
If you tap your own hand, you can “split” fingers from one hand to the other. For instance, if you have three points on one hand and only one on the other, you may tap hands to rearrange them, putting out two fingers on each hand. Splits do not have to end up even, but each hand must end up with at least one point (and less than five, of course).
You may even revive a dead hand if you have enough fingers on your other hand to split. A dead hand has lost all its points, so it starts at zero. When you tap it, you can share out the points from your other hand as you wish.
I first saw place value games on the old PBS Square One TV show (video below). Many teachers have posted versions of the game online, but Snugglenumber by Anna Weltman is by far the cutest variation. Anna kindly gave me permission to use the game in my upcoming Math You Can Play book series, and I added the following variation:
Math Concepts: place value, strategic thinking. Players: two or more. Equipment: one deck of playing cards, or a double deck for more than three players.
Separate out the cards numbered ace (one) through nine, plus cards to represent the digit zero. We use the queens (Q is round enough for pretend), but you could also use the tens and just count them as zero.
Shuffle well and deal eleven cards to each player. Arrange your cards in the snugglenumber pattern shown here, one card per blank line, to form numbers that come as close to each target number as you can get it.