Laughter + Fun = Math Games | The Homeschool Review

Laughter + Fun = Math Games

By Kathleen Cotter Lawler,

When we think of playing games, we think of good times, laughter, and family fun. When we think of math, rarely do these same thoughts come to mind. What a shame! Math should be good times, laughter, and family fun. So how can we make that happen? Read on and let me share some ideas.

First, if we are going to blend math and card games, we need to make sure the games are not glorified flashcards or disguised worksheets. The math games need to entice laughter and joy.

Then, the games need to help the child learn, not just review. If there isn’t a learning component involved, a child who doesn’t know their facts can’t play the game. Yes, those who know the facts will review and solidify their skills. But we want to make sure both elements, learning and review, are involved in the game.

So let’s look at two math card games; one for addition facts for 10 and another for comparing and understanding fractions. These are games that are found in Math Card Games, written by Dr. Joan A. Cotter.

The first game, Go to the Dump, is similar to the popular children’s Go Fish game. Instead of having the pairs be matching numbers, we’re going to have the pairs be two cards that make 10. So 8 and 2 will be a pair, 4 and 6 will be a pair, and so on.

To help a young child learn or verify the facts of ten, give them 10 counters; 5 of one color and 5 of another color. This grouping in fives helps with recognizing, or subitizing, the quantities. Line up the counters as shown here.


Then, when a card, let’s say 3, is being considered for its match, slide that number of counters to the left. See how the quantity of 7, the match for 3, is quickly recognizable?


Here’s what 9 would look like. This helps the child learn the facts of 10!


Allow the child to use these counters as long as needed. After repeated use, the child will begin to visualize the quantities and not need the actual counters.

So let’s play the game! It’s best if three to four people play, although more or less can certainly play. Use cards with the numbers 1 through 9, six of each card. Each player starts with five cards. Place the remaining cards face down in the center. This is the “dump.”

Have the players check over their cards for pairs that equal ten. Use the counters to help determine what is a match. If any pairs are found, place those two cards face up, one card on each of two stacks in front of the player. This allows pairs to be easily verified and, more importantly, this allows the child to have a visual image of two numbers being a pair to make 10. Additionally, it makes shuffling unnecessary for the next game.

The first player asks the player to his left for a number that he needs to make 10. Let’s say he has a 4 in hand. He would ask “Do you have a 6?” If the second player has the card, she must give it to him. The first player gets another turn. If she does not have the requested card, she says, “Go to the dump!” The first player picks up the top card from the dump, the stack in the center. Even if the card picked up pairs with one in his hand, his turn is over.

The second player takes her turn by asking the player on her left and so on. If a player runs out of cards, he takes five more cards, but his turn is ended. When the dump is gone, players can ask any player for a card. At the end of the game, all the cards will be paired.

There is a variation of this game available for your iPhone, iPad, or Android. Search the appropriate store for “Go to Ten,” download, and enjoy!

Now, let’s look at a fraction game, Fraction War. Start by drawing a linear fraction chart shown here and let the child use it as they play the game. This provides assistance for those just learning and helps everyone visualize fractions and understand the relationship between one, halves, fourths, and eighths. It also helps children to learn to read rulers.

To play this two-person game, you will need the following cards:

3 each of 3/4, 3/8, 5/8, 7/8
5 each of 1, 1/4
4 of 1/8
8 of 1/2
With only 34 cards, this game goes relatively fast.

Remember how to play the traditional war game? Each person lays down two cards and whoever has the higher card takes both cards. You try to capture all the cards from your opponent.

Shuffle the deck then split the cards evenly between the two players. Keeping the cards face down, each player takes the top card from her stack and lays it face up in the middle of the table. Use the fraction chart to help figure out whose card is greater, and that person takes both cards. Have the children alternate deciding whose card is higher so that you don’t get one child drifting along on the coattails of the other.

When the same cards are played, it’s a “war!” Both players lay one card face down, then play a card face up. Looking at the two new cards, the player who has the higher card takes all six cards. This is a game that children will play for hours — to the point that you will cheat to lose to get out of there!

This game is also available for your iPhone, iPad, or Android. Search for “Fraction War.” Then, if you would like additional math card games that teach as well as review, create good times, laughter, and family fun, check out the Math Card Games kit from RightStart™ Math — KCL

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