Math Card Games for the Classroom

Nothing fills the classroom with more excitement and cheer – and gives you instant celebrity status (the coolest teacher ever) faster than the declaration of Game Time!

While students see this is as a well deserved break from all their hard work, what they don’t suspect is that it’s actually a way to consolidate their learning, albeit outside the typically structured setting (but they don’t need to know that). Playing cards reinforces important math skills (number sense; number recognition, counting, adding, subtracting), social skills (taking turns, sharing, sportsmanship) and builds on children’s strategic thinking and planning. As a teacher, of course, observing my students play is the perfect opportunity to also assess their strengths and weaknesses in these areas and plan future lessons based on their needs.

So go ahead – roll up your sleeves, gather eager players, hand out the cards and let the games begin!

A few notes:

• For the purpose of the games listed below, an ace represents the number one.
• Unless otherwise specified, each game is played in a group of 3-4 students, but can be modified to include more or less players.
• If you want your students to keep score, have some paper and pencils handy.
• Remind students to shuffle the cards well before each game.

CARD GAMES FOR THE CLASSROOM

Give Me Ten

Place all the cards facing down in the centre of the table. Each player picks up 4 cards and holds them up, not revealing their cards to the other players. Four additional cards are drawn and placed in the middle as the ‘bank’ reserve. The first player tries to match one of their cards with one from the bank to add up to 10. For example, if a player holds a 6 and the bank has a 4, they collect the card and place it aside as a ten-point. They can also add up to 10 by picking up various other combinations (i.e., 6, 2, 2 or 5, 1, 4) and by using as many of their cards as possible in one turn. The aim is to make as many sets of 10 as possible. If/when the bank is ‘empty’ the current player must put down any random card from their hand and the next player continues. With each round, players continue to pick up 4 cards and aim sets of 10. A king can only pick up a king, a queen only a queen, a jack can pick up all the number cards. When no cards remain, the player with the most sets of 10 wins the game. As an alternative, instead of adding to 10, choose another number (i.e., 11, 12).

One Hundred

Each player picks up 4 cards from the deck and place them face up. Players rearrange their cards and try to create number pairs that add up to 100, or else as close as possible. For example, the cards 9, 1, 4, 5, can be arranged to create two larger numbers: 51 and 49. When added together 51 and 49 equal 100. When everyone’s ready, they should share their final numbers. Whoever is closest to 100 receives a point. Play for 10 rounds. The player with the most points at the end of the final round wins.

Memory Game

Spread the cards face down on a table in a random pattern or in a grid. Players take turns turning over two cards while all the players can see them. If they are not a matching pair, they turn them back over. The next player turns over two cards. If they are a matching pair, that player removes them from the table and keeps them, and then has another turn. When all cards have been removed from the table, each player counts up the number of cards they have collected. The player with the most matching cards wins the game. This is a great game to enhance memory and concentration skills.

Bluff

Divide all the cards equally among the players. Players may organize their cards without showing them to the others. The first player places a card face down in the centre of the table saying ace. The next player must place down a card higher up in value (i.e., number 2). The following player discards threes, and so on. Players announce their cards as they lay them. After kings have been played, aces start again. Players can discard up to four cards at a time.  Players don’t have to play the cards they announce – they can be bluffing. After each turn, any player can challenge the last player (if they believe they are lying) by saying You’re bluffing! When this happens, the challenger can look at the discarded cards. If they match what the person who played them said, the challenger picks up all cards in the discard pile and adds them to his personal pile. If the cards are not what the person said they were, the player who discarded them must pick up the entire discard pile. The player to lay down his entire hand of cards first will win the game.

Higher Up

Divide all the cards equally among the players. Cards facing down, each player turns over a card from their ‘bank’ and puts it down in the centre. When all of the players had a chance to put down a card, the player with the highest ranking card takes them all and places them aside. With each round, players continue to place down cards from their ‘bank’, until no cards remain. The player with the most cards at the end wins the game. As an alternative, the player that can make the most sets of ten wins the game (i.e., 5, 2 and 3 is one set of 10; 9 and 1 is another, a king and a king is a ten, etc.)

Crazy Eights

Each  player is dealt five cards. The rest of the deck goes facedown in a pile, with the top card turned up beside it. This is the discard pile. The player to the left of the dealer discards a card from his hand that matches either the number or suit of the top card in the discard pile. For example, if the card is a five of hearts, he could play any heart or any five. If he does not have a matching card, he continues picking up cards from the deck until he gets one that is playable. Eights are wild and can be put down on any suit. For example, an eight could be played to match a heart. The next player must match their card to the number or suit that the eight was meant to cover. Play continues with players matching the card at the top of the discard pile. The first player to use up all his cards wins. If the deck runs out before the game is over, the discard pile can be used.

To download a free copy of Card Games for the Classroom for your personal use in the classroom, click on the image below.

Happy playing,

Lora

How Tall Is My Giraffe? Exploring Measurement

A very interesting math lesson stemmed from a story I read to my students about a king who got a giraffe as a birthday gift. The king challenged his townspeople, offering a reward to the first person who would be able to tell him how tall his giraffe was. The people set off to measure the giraffe in whichever way they could – none of the attempts were successful. Every failed try served as a great lesson about measurement do’s and don’t’s.

How Tall is My Giraffe?

After extracting important math concepts from this adventurous story, I introduced students to a giraffe of my own (my children’s old plush growth chart). I posed the same question to an eager-looking bunch (there was no gold incentive on my end though). With just enough direction, I let students explore solutions to this problem during Learning Centres time. Students showed remarkable interest in this challenge and began gathering all kinds of objects to use as measurement tools.

Before long, the carpet was filled with various objects: building blocks, popsicle sticks, snow pants, jackets, bottle caps, books, markers, etc. Students were so excited, they even suggested using me as a measuring tool. How could I say no to that? After a few chuckles and excited cheers, we sat down to reflect on our findings, which ultimately led to another great inquiry question? Why did we need so many cotton balls yet such few blocks? How does the size of the measuring tool affect the measurement?

Three Witty Goats Gruff

Hello everyone. I hope you had a restful March break and are excited about the week ahead. I’d like to share a poem I wrote a little while back titled, Three Witty Goats Gruff.  It is based on a variation of the original story, Three Billy Goats GruffI plan to revisit it with my students this week as we continue our exploration around the concept of Measurement and Size.

After reading several versions of the original story to my students, I plan to introduce my version of it via a poem. When I first introduced it (last year), students really enjoyed the chant and patterns, while I loved the teachable moments that stemmed from it.

MATH – counting backwards, detecting patterns, reinforcing concepts of measurement and size, subtraction, etc.

LITERACY – introducing new vocabulary, making predictions, using context clues to make inferences, singular/plural pronouns, synonyms, etc.

One of my students favourite follow-up activities was to re-enact the poem using stick puppets. It is a wonderful way for them to practise retelling the story and have fun while doing so. Some benefits of using stick puppets to teach literacy include strengthening oral vocabulary, acting in role, building comprehension, retelling a story in sequence, and recalling details.

Here are some cross-curricular extension activities, including: 1. Three Billy Goats Gruff Maze – students help the Billy Goats navigate through a maze to get to a field of fresh grass (good for refining fine motor, spatial and problem-solving skills); 2. Writing Template – students reflect on their favourite part of the story (while practising important writing skills); 3. Fill In The Blanks – students use a word bank to fill in the missing words from the poem (great for memory skills and practising high-frequency words); 4. Making Patterns Math Worksheet – students complete and create their own pattern using characters from the story (aids with visual discrimination and patterning concepts).

To download a copy of my poem, Three Witty Goats Gruff, including the Stick Puppet Templates, for your personal use in the classroom, along with the cross-curricular activities hown above, click on Billy Goat.

I hope you and your students enjoy the poem and have fun with these activities in the classroom. As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

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Have a great week everyone.

Lora

Teaching with Monkeys

One of my favourite ways to teach combinations of five begins with the story, Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed (bear in mind, I teach Kindergarten but this could easily be adapted to other grades as well). After reading the story, initially exploring rhymes, patterns, and chants, I like to use it as a tool for teaching math facts to five.

As I go through the story again (generally over the span of a few days), I take a moment after each verse to introduce a math fact or draw a composition of the monkeys in relation to the bed (i.e., 5 monkeys on the bed and 0 on the ground; 5 + 0 = 5). By the end of the story, we cover all the combinations of five. While we review the math facts, I draw their attention to the pattern that emerges (i.e., when the number of monkeys on the bed decreases the number of monkeys on the ground increases).  For the rest of the week, I invite 5 different students each day to come up and re-enact the poem while we sing to it.  We continue to review the math facts as we go along.

As an extension, and one that students really enjoy, I have students re-enact the story/song using stick puppets.  They begin by colouring and cutting out a template of the bed and the 5 monkeys.  Then they glue a popsicle stick to the back of each monkey and take turns re-enacting the story/song to a partner.  By the end of the week, the stick puppets get sent home with a letter to parents.

Here is a class chart we made using the templates from above (photocopied on construction paper). It outlines the various ways Five can be made and serves as a great visual around the math centre.

A great way to gage students’ understanding of the concept and evaluate their learning is to have them repeat this activity with bingo dabbers (one colour representing the monkeys on the bed, and another representing the ones on the ground). Each student gets 6 bed templates and uses two colour dabbers to show the various combinations the monkeys could be arranged (i.e., 3 dabs on the bed, 2 on the ground).

Here is a card game I made to help students practice their facts to five and sharpen their memory skills while they’re at it. After introducing it as a whole class activity, I left it at the math station for students to play with during Centre time. I will be sending home a template of the game for families to assemble and enjoy during the March break as well.

To download a Teaching with Monkeys resource kit, including the poem, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, stick puppet templates (bed and monkeys), bingo dabber assessment sheets, Gimme Five card game and instruction sheets, click on the monkey.

Now for some more fun with monkeys … enjoy!

Happy teaching everyone.

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Have a fabulous March break!

Lora

The Giant and I

Happy Monday everyone. I’d like to share a poem I wrote a couple of years ago and plan to share with my students this week, as we begin exploring the concept of measurement. The Giant and I is a charming poem about a little boy who outsmarts a fearsome giant. It opens up a great discussion about the various ways the characters could be described (big, small, tall, short, heavy, light, wide, narrow, etc.) hence setting the stage for building the appropriate vocabulary for the unit. A follow-up activity is included, integrating concepts about size and shapes.

Click on the image of the giant to download a copy of the poem and worksheet for your personal use in the classroom.

Have a great week everyone!

Lora

Peek-a-Boo, Why Don’t I See You ?

One look out the window on most winter days and your first instinct is to crawl right back into bed and curl up like a ball. But as cozy as that sounds, its not always an option.

We are left to embrace the chilly winter days by adapting to them; poofy jackets, warm boots, wooly hats, furry mittens, snow pants, scarves, ear-muffs – you name it, before you know it, you’re barely recognizable.

But what do animals do during the long and cold winter months? How do they survive? And where are they?

Peek-a-Boo, Why Don’t I See You – Animals in Winter, is a poem I wrote to help children understand how various animals cope during the winter. It introduces the concepts of hibernation, migration and adaptation.

A fun and memorable way to acquaint students with the vocabulary is to form associations with them. (If you enjoy acting every now and then, this is a good time to show off those skills). I began by telling my students that I have a team of ‘scientists’ that will be working with us. I told them that my name was Bernate and asked them to wave and say hi to me, (hence hi-Bernate). Then I pretended to fall asleep (hibernating teacher). They seemed perplexed at first, but smiled when they understood what I was doing. Next, I introduced my pretend assistant named Grate (an invisible bird sitting on my hand) and gestured that he is only mine, (hence my-Grate). Then I pretended to catch him as he attempted to fly away (migrating assistant). Finally, I added our last participant to the mix – a very furry fox named Apt, (add-apt). There I had it, the terminology (and basic meaning) that students would need for the unit was now easily accessible with simple gestures as cues. (I can’t help but smile when I see my students mimicking the gestures I associated with the terms).

Peek-a-Boo, Why Don’t I See You? Animals in Winter by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Here are some fun related activities I created and plan to share with my students throughout our exploration of Animals in Winter. I hope you enjoy incorporating them into your classroom adventures as well.

While we’ve enjoyed reading many fiction and non-fiction books about Winter Animals, we have equally enjoyed filling a class chart on animals that hibernate, migrate and adapt. Though our list continues to grow each day, I selected various animals to be used in a follow-up sorting activity (sample here).

Winter Wonderland
Students colour, cut, and paste various animals into the appropriate place in the winter wonderland scene.

Sleepy Bear  Students use
various craft items (i.e., tissue paper, cotton balls, construction paper, paper bags, twigs, popsicle sticks, and whatever else you can find around your room) to create a home for a sleepy bear. You may or may not want to tell students in advance how these items can be used. I personally enjoy watching what students come up with when they are given free choice, but I do give them a starting point.

What the Leaves Blew In…

Winter is just around the corner (pout, moan, cry). But before its official debut, I thought I’d pay tribute to the wonderful adventures we embarked on during our study of Autumn.

We began our exploration by taking an investigative walk around the school yard, looking for evidence of Fall.  Among the many things we observed, students marveled at the beautiful, colourful leaves everywhere; leaves of different shape, size and colour.

As with any great investigation, we had to gather specimens to bring back and explore further in our classroom – red leaves, yellow leaves, big leaves, little leaves, oak leaves, maple leaves, and what’s this – acorns, pine cones, flowers, twigs and rocks – all were welcomed.

Over the next several weeks, we were quite busy inquiring, learning and integrating our artifacts into every aspect of our day. We read many books about Fall, trees, seeds and leaves.

We documented and wrote about Fall changes. We learned about and labeled the different parts of a leaf. We counted, graphed, sorted and made patterns with leaves. We even made a pine cone shaker (to complement the seed shaker we previously made during our Apple inquiry – it turned out to be a great way to distinguish between the different sounds seeds can make).

We created art with leaf rubbings and leaf stamps (students loved creating their own Leaf Creatures, which after being displayed on our walls, made an entertaining class book).

It was endless! The ideas kept pouring, and the fun and learning continued.

For the culminating activity, we created a class book where each student got to contribute their idea to a page about leaves (parents really enjoyed looking through it during our Fall conferences). Students also had a chance to read a personalized book about leaves with our Grade Three Reading Buddies – they were so excited, I was so proud.

Though I generally have an overall sense of where I’d like an inquiry based opportunity to lead, I can never truly predict how vast or fruitful it will grow to be. It is the students’ curiosity and eagerness that determines the direction and range of learning. Regardless, I am always pleasantly surprised and excited to see where each inquiry will take us.

Enjoy the last bit of Fall everyone. Thank you for your time.

Lora

Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar???

Shhh, don’t tell them, but it was me!

Here is a fun and tasty idea for the first week back to school …

Print and cut-out enough cookie templates so that each student has one with their name written on the back (you may want to invite students who are able to write their name independently, to do so prior to beginning). Place all the cookies in a jar and with all the students sitting in a circle, introduce the song, Who Took the Cookies from the Cookie Jar.  While singing, pull out one cookie at a time and hold it up for the class to read. You may want to help by encouraging students to look at the letters for clues. For example, “This person’s name begins with the letter B, which makes a bbb sound.  I wonder whose name this could be?” If you like having your students wear name tags during the first few weeks of school, you may want to invite them to take off their tags at this point and look closely at the letters in their name. Throughout the day, continue to pull out more cookies from the jar until each child’s name has been called (if you have a small class, one sitting may do).

You might also want to revisit this activity with a small group of students or else with a different focus in mind (i.e., sorting: girls and boys, long names and short names; counting: number of letters in each name, number of students; graphing: organizing the information, etc.).  I like to repeat this activity several times during the first couple of weeks of school. Students are quite amused by it and it is a great way to learn each other’s names while learning important skills at the same time. As an extension, I prepared a follow-up writing piece where students are invited to write their name and draw a picture of themselves eating cookies (a great time for an art lesson).  While some students may be able to write their name independently, others may need to copy or trace the letters from their name tag (tracing over a highlighted name works well too).

The jar can then be put to further use by placing it somewhere in the room for students to access during Centre/Play time. Depending on the various skills you introduced with the activity, students may want to explore some of them independently or in a small group (i.e., counting, sorting, etc.).

** To download a copy of the song, cookie templates and follow-up writing activity, press on the cookie jar below.

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Thank you and have a sweet and fabulous start to the school year.

Lora