Card Game Math

Card games are a great way for students of all ages to practice math skills. Mrs. VanBergen recently shared rules for some basic card games – games that can easily be modified depending on the age and ability of the players.


  1. Randomly place all cards being used face down in a grid.
  2. Player 1 turns over two cards so all can see. If they match they keep the cards.
  3. Player 2 turns over two cards so all can see. If they match they keep the cards.
  4. Players continue to take turns until all of the cards are gone.
  5. The player with the most cards wins.

Modification for younger students: start with fewer cards, maybe 8.

I Spy

  1. Randomly place all cards being used face up in a grid.
  2. Player 1 begins by looking at two cards and adding their numbers together, (for example a 2 and a 5.) The player then states, “I spy two cards that equal 7.”
  3. Player 2 finds two cards that equal 7 and then removes them. Then that player looks at two cards, add their numbers together and says, “I spy two cards that equal ______.”

Modifications: for younger students, use this game for number identification. (“I spy the number eight.”) Older students can use three addends, (“I spy three cards that make the number ____ ”) or to practice subtraction, multiplication, or division.


  1. Deal all cards to the players one at a time. Players keep their cards in a pile, face down.
  2. At the same time, players flip over the top card of their pile. The player with the highest card takes all of the cards and puts them on the bottom of their pile.
  3. If players have cards of equal value they go to “war.” Each player places three cards face down, and then a fourth card face up; the player whose fourth card has the highest value takes all of the cards.
  4. Play ends when one player has all the cards.

Modifications: for younger students, remove the face cards. For all students, turn up two cards with each turn; the player whose cards have the highest sum collects the cards.

Go Fish

  1. Give each player five cards. The remaining cards go in a “fishing pile” in the middle of the table.
  2. Players take turns trying to create pairs of cards with the same value:
    • Player 1 asks his neighbor: “Do you have an (number)?”
    • The named player says “yes” and gives up the card; or “no, go fish” and the asking player draws a card from the fishing pile.
    • If the player makes a match, they set the cards to the side.
  3. Players take turns trying to make matches. The game ends when one player runs out of cards. Whoever has the most matches wins!

Modifications: For younger students, start by using cards two through five. Older students can play “Go Fish – Make 10”: remove the face cards from the deck; instead of pairs of the same value, players collect pairs of cards that equal ten. (4 and 6, 2 and 8, etc.).

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