Playing Math Card Games to Excite and Challenge Your Students

A deck of cards is a fantastic tool to have in the upper elementary classroom. It’s great for indoor recess AND for math card games to keep your kids thinking and learning. Think about it, when you play any card game, you are doing a little bit of math in your head! Try some math card games with your students to keep them engaged, and give them new activities to try with their peers!

Playing math card games in the upper elementary classroom

Race to 100

One simple way to practice addition to 100 is to supply kids with a deck of cards. Have them take turns drawing a card and adding it to their total. As they draw a card, they should add that number to their tally. They will need to record their numbers on paper, so they don’t lose track. If they get to the end of the deck and no one has reached 100, have them shuffle and continue until someone wins!

Play to 21

Also known as Blackjack, this game has the kids draw cards until they have 21. It will force them to think critically and think ahead before using their cards. Try to get your kids to use mental math for this game, but to start, a pencil and paper may be helpful! Add this to your list of math card games to have on hand in the classroom.

Pyramid Solitaire

Lay out 21 cards in the shape of a pyramid. Row by row, have kids remove 2 cards that equal 10. As they remove a card, they can replace more from the deck to help. It works much like solitaire and can be played in pairs or independently. If you have enough decks, this makes a great quiet game during your math block. Add it to your math card games this year.

Learn more about this Pyramid game and grab instruction sheets and recording sheets from my shop.

Playing math card games in the upper elementary classroom

Flip One Addition and Subtraction

This math card game is pretty simple. Give your students a deck of cards. The kids take turns flipping a card and adding or subtracting it to the card that’s in their hand. If the card they flip is red, they add one and say the amount. If the card is black, they subtract one and say the new number. Continue until the deck is gone, and see who has the highest or lowest number. This game doesn’t have to have a winner, but kids may delegate one somehow.

Go Fish Math Card Games

There are pre-made go fish cards that help students with math facts, but you can easily create one using a plain deck of cards. Have kids play the normal rules of Go Fish, and they have to fish for partners of 10. The person with the most pairs when the deck is gone wins the game.

Multiplication Math Card Games

If your kids love playing war, this is fairly similar and so simple. Place two halves of the deck face down. Each player takes turns drawing a card from the top of each pile. The kids race to multiply the numbers and shout out the correct answer. The first person to say the correct answer wins the cards. Play until all of the cards are gone, and the winner is the student with the most cards.

Watch this video for a simple explanation if needed!

Practice with Decimals

In this card game, students have to make their hand of ten cards equal $1.00. They can draw, swap, and discard cards to create the perfect hand. In this game, an Ace is worth $0.01; two is $0.02, and so on. The Jack is 11 cents, the Queen is 12 cents, and the King is 13 cents. If kids need a pencil and paper to keep track, let them do so until they figure things out.

Fraction War Math Game

Here is another war game! You will need a deck of cards and a pencil or popsicle sticks to act as the fraction bar. Each student deals two cards to create a fraction. Then they compete to figure out which fraction is larger. The person with the larger fraction takes all four cards. Play continues until the cards are depleted, and the person with the most cards wins.

Playing math card games in the upper elementary classroom

Play Card I Spy

This game is extremely versatile! Depending on the math skill you are working on, you can break this game out to help kids practice. Lay cards out in a 4×4 arrangement. Kids take turns spying on a certain card and giving clues to help their peers get to that card. They might say things like, “I spy a card that’s less than 10” or “I spy two cards that are factors of 10”. The options are endless!

Use these fun math card games to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, decimals, and so much more! Playing card games during math block is a fantastic way to problem solve, work as a team, and to use those smart brains! Kids will enjoy math time and ask for more card games.

Check out Fun Math Games and Printables using decks of cards and resources that will make math block easier.

Playing math card games in the upper elementary classroom
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