Fun Math Card Games for the Primary Classroom

12:03 AM

 My kids love playing math games during centers and can I tell you that my favorite games are the ones that are quick and easy to prep and set up. Sometimes you don't have time to print, laminate, and create all of these elaborate games and that is OK! Sometimes just a simple deck of cards is all you need! Here's some of my favorite card games to play with my kids


 I'm sure this is a game that you are already familiar with and have probably played when you were a kid but it's still a favorite! This is also a great game to help teach number sense! So many skills you can incorporate in this simple game! 

This game can be played in pairs or in a small group. Students will divide the cards between each player evenly. They will keep them in a stack face down so they cannot see the cards. Each player will then turn over their top card to show everyone. Each player will compare the numbers on the card and whichever player has the greatest number keeps all of the cards just played. Players will keep playing until one player runs out of cards.

This is a great game to help with number recognition, counting, and comparing numbers. You can also change it up and have the player with the smallest number win the round and keep all the cards.

Addition War

This is another variation of the classic game War. It is set up the same way as the version above. However, when it's time to play, players will turn over two cards instead of one. They will add the numbers of the two cards together to find the sum. The player with the greatest sum wins the round and keeps all the cards that were played.

This is another great game to practice comparing numbers along with practicing addition. You can even change it up and have students subtract the two cards and the smallest difference wins the round.

Make 10

This is another fun game that helps reinforce addition skills. To prep this game, remove all of the jokers, kings, queens, and jacks from the deck. Have the students lay out 10 cards, two rows of five works the best, face up. Place the rest of the deck off to the side. Students will look at the rows of cards and see if they can find a pair, when added together, that makes 10. The ace card counts as a 1. Replace the empty spots where the cards were with two new cards from the deck. Continue playing and finding pairs that make 10 until there are no pairs left. 

Tens Go Fish

This is a fun twist on the classic game Go Fish that I loved playing when I was a kid. This combines Go Fish with the Make 10 game listed above. It can be played in pairs or mall groups. Each student gets a small handful of cards, such as 7, and looks at them but does not show the other players their cards. The students will take turns asking their teammates for a specific card number that could pair with a card they already have to make 10 when added together. For example, if the player has a 3 then they could ask a specific person if they have a 7. If the player has the card, they will give it to their teammate and they will put the pair down for all to see. If the teammate does not have the card that was asked for, they say "Go Fish," and the player that asked for a card will then draw a card from the pile. Keep playing until one player is out of cards.

This is a great game to help with addition skills and practicing friends of 10.


This is a great game to play to help with number recognition and to working on memory skills. With younger students you may only want to play with half the deck, such as all the hearts and clubs. Older students may need the challenge of the full deck. Place all of the cards in rows face down. Each player will take a turn flipping over two cards. If the cards match, they keep the two cards. If they do not match, they turn them back over face down in their original spots. Players take turns flipping over two cards and trying to find a match. Game is over when all matches have been found.

Number Order

This has been one of my kids favorite games but does take the most set up time and practice time. But once they learn it, the love it. For this game, you will use the full deck except the joker, king, queen, and jack. To set up the game, find all of the aces and put them in a vertical row face up. then in a horizontal row beside each ace, place 9 cards face down. So you will have 4 rows with 10 cards total, ace face up and 9 cards face down. 
To play, students will pick one card at the end of the row and pick it up and look at the number and the suit. The student will find the row with the matching suit and count the number of spaces to find where that card would belong. For example, if the pick a 5 of hearts, they will find the row with the Ace of hearts and count 5 cards over. They will place the card face up in that spot and remove the card that was already there. Now the card that they picked up is the new card that they will play to find the spot for it. Students will keep swapping cards and placing the card in the correct numerical spot. When the game is over they will have 4 rows of cards all in correct numerical order.

This game can be played independently or students can work together on one game. Great for number recognition, counting practice, and sequencing.

What are some other fun games that you can think of that use just a deck of cards?

by Julie Davis

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