Now that we’ve been stuck at home for a few weeks, you’re probably running low on fun activities to do with your children or students. There are a ton of fun and free educational activities that you can do with a regular deck of playing cards. Below you will find five free math activities to do with playing cards that will keep your children or students entertained, engaged, and actively learning.
Note: For all the activities below, you can use paper or a dry erase board.
Playing Cards Math Activity #1 – Counting On
Start by removing the Ace, Jack, Queen, and King cards from the deck. Then, make a pile of the remaining cards and place them face down. Have your children flip the top card over and write the three numbers that come after the number on the card.
If you’re doing this with your students remotely, simply flip the card over and have them write the numbers on a piece of paper and hold it up to their screen for you to check their answers. Another option is to have your children or students figure out what number comes before and after the number on the playing card. Both activities are great for practicing number sense!
Playing Cards Math Activity #2 – Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To
This activity is similar to playing the famous card game, “War.” The only difference in this version is that when both players flip a card over, the players take turns drawing a greater than, less than, or equal to symbol in between the cards flipped. The player that has the greater amount gets to keep both cards from that round. If the cards are equal, the players play three additional cards face down in a line and flip the next card in their pile.
The person with the higher number wins all the cards from that round. You can set a time limit for this game (and see who collects more cards in that time), or wait until one of the players collects all of the cards to find a winner!
Really Good Stuff has a similar game that has two-digit numbers and base ten blocks, and three-digit numbers and base ten blocks, making it differentiated so that you can choose the card pile appropriate for your child or students. Check out the Greater Than, Less Than Gator Game ($22.99).
Playing Cards Math Activity #3 – Number Bonds
Number bonds are a great way to help children understand the relationship between numbers. They’re typically taught as part, part, whole (meaning there are two smaller numbers that make up the larger number). Number bonds can look a few different ways. One example is in the picture below. Another example is whole number on the top and the parts below (the opposite of the example below). Number bonds can also have the sum on the left and the addends stacked to the right, connected by lines. If your child has already learned to do number bonds, ask them to draw it so that you can practice them using what they already know.
Now that we’ve talked a little bit about number bonds, here’s how you do this activity. Simply flip two cards over (parts) and figure out what the whole number is, by adding the two parts together. Write that number in the circle. Do this activity repeatedly to build number sense through 20. You can also separate the cards and only include cards two through five for children that are learning to add within 10.
Playing Cards Math Activity #4 – Addition and Subtraction
Playing cards can also be used to add and subtract. The examples below are all addition – however, you can also do subtraction. To subtract, explain to your child that the larger number must be first (or on top depending on how you write the equation out). See the examples below.
Playing Cards Math Activity #5 – Place Value
There’s so much you can do with place value using playing cards. For these practices you will need to prepare by copying the paper in the picture below. You will have to figure out what yours looks like based on what your child is learning / understands. You can also create a comma and/or decimal, as shown below.
To do this activity, flip over six cards (the number may be different depending on your child’s skill level) and ask your child a variety of questions, such as: What number is in the hundreds place? If I add one more card, what will this number be? Where does the comma go?
If you use this version, you can move the decimal around to make different numbers. At this time you can ask your child a variety of questions, such as: Which number is greater? (Give two numbers with the decimal in different places), What is this number? What place is the number nine in?
As you can see, using playing cards to practice math skills can be fun and engaging for your children. Make sure that the activities you choose for your kids are creative and on their level. It’s important that children feel confident and truly understand what you are teaching them before moving on to the next level. As always, make these activities about having fun so that your kids will be more inclined to practice their math skills.
As always, our Really Good Stuff® team is here to help. For free resources to help teachers, parents, and children navigate this unprecedented time, check out the Really Good Stuff® Resources tab. You can also search our blog for more free tips and ideas from real teachers.
By Nicole Morelli
Nicole Morelli formerly taught first, second, and third grade. Before teaching, she was a paraprofessional, where she assisted in multiple elementary grades and a special needs class. Nicole has worked at Really Good Stuff for a little over two years as a Product Developer and Content Manager. Her specialties are STEM education and social-emotional learning. She has a lot of fun developing products for those topics!