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Thursday, December 15, 2016


Today let’s see how much fun (and learning) can happen when you shuffle up a deck of cards. People have been entertained by card games for centuries, and children today will be just as interested in these activities.

Don’t you love the idea of games that are “hands on” and require children to look in the eyes of their classmates? These games encourage children to self-regulate, problem solve, use critical thinking skills, and practice math skills in a meaningful way. They can easily be adapted to different skill levels and can be used in centers, when children finish their work early, or on snowy days. And, one of the best things is that playing cards are inexpensive and readily accessible.

Ask children to sort cards by color, suit, number, etc.
Order Please
Remove the face cards and then have the children put the cards in numerical order.


Can children make a pattern with their cards? Can friends identify the pattern?
Mind Reader
Remove face cards. One child comes to the front of the room and draws a card. Don’t let anyone see what it is! Classmates take turns trying to guess the number by asking yes/no questions that include math vocabulary. For example, “Is it greater than 5? Is it even? Do 3 and 5 equal it?”

Line Up
Remove face cards and pass out a card to each child. Call out directions for lining up using math vocabulary. For example, “If you come between 7 and 9 you can line up. If you are an odd number lower than 5 you may line up. If you add your number to 6 and get 8 you may line up.”

Number Stories
Remove face cards, shuffle, and then have each child draw two cards. Encourage them to think of a number story using the two digits. Can their friends tell the answer?

Use two suites of cards for this game. Shuffle cards and place them face down in rows on the floor or a table. Children rotate turning over two cards. If their cards match they may keep them and take another turn. If their cards don’t match they turn them back over and the next child has a turn. The game continues until all pairs have been matched.

Top It
(This game was formerly known as “war,” but “top it” sounds more politically correct.) Remove face cards and shuffle. Split the deck and place face down. Children remove one card at a time and turn it over. The child with the highest number takes both cards. If they turn over the same amount they place 3 cards face down and turn over the 3rd card. The highest number takes all the cards. The game continues as long as time permits.

Add It Up
This is similar to top it. Children turn over one card at a time. The first child to correctly add up both numbers gets both cards.

Remove face cards and give half a stack to each child. The goal is to try and line up ten cards from 1-10. Children face each other with their stacks face down. First child turns over a card and puts it in a line in front of them. Second child turns over a card and puts it in a line in front of them. First child turns over another card and places it in numerical order…etc. When a child turns over a card that they already have used they put it in the “trash” in the middle. Their opponent may take that card if they can use it. The first one to have numbers 1-10 wins.
High, Low, Equal
Make a game board similar to the one shown. Children place a deck of cards face down. They select two cards at a time and place them in the correct category.
Remove face cards. Pass out a card to each child. The teacher calls out a number between 2 and 20. Children “scramble” around the room and find one or two other numbers that will equal that amount.

House of Cards
Can children build a house using cards? This takes some engineering skills!

Check out this video that shows how to build a house with cards:

Dealer’s Choice
Go Fish and Crazy Eights are other traditional card games your students can play, or let them create their own games.


Wouldn’t it be great if children taught their parents how to play some of these card games?

Note! I’ve heard that if you have a casino in your area they will donate free cards to your classroom. Apparently they drill a hole through the cards first, but they’d be just fine for classroom activities.