Using a Deck of Cards in Math (Teaching Tip)

Here is a quick and easy math game you can have your students play. All you need is a deck of cards. You will need to remove the face cards so that you are only left with the numbers 2 to 9 and the aces. For the purposes of this game, an ace will count as the number “1”

The game is called Target Zero

The students will need to be familar with positive and negative numbers.

In this game, black cards are negative and red cards are positive. For example a red 7 is +7 and a black 3 is -3

  1. Shuffle the cards and deal them face down until all the cards are dealt.
  2. The player to the dealer’s left goes first, and play continues clockwise
  3. The first player turns over the first card and places it in the centre of the play area.
  4. The next player turns over a card, adds the number to the card already played, says the sum aloud, and places the card on top of the previously played card.
  5. The next player turns over a card, adds the number to the sum, says the sum aloud,and places the card on top
  6. Play continues until a number is added to give a sum of zero
  7. The player who gets a sum of zero wins the round and scores a point
  8. The winner begins the next round.

Here is an example of this game in action.

The first card dealt in this game is a Black 6.

Since black cards represent a negative number, the total value right now is -6.

The second card is placed on top of the 6 is a Red 5

Since red cards are positive, we need to add this to the -6 already in play.

-6+5 = -1

The total sum is now -1. In order to win, we need to get a value of zero. We could do that with a red ace.

A Red Ace has the value of +1

The last sum was -1, so by adding a positive 1, we have hit the target of zero.

-1 + 1 = 0

I found this game in ONAP- Ontario Numeracy Assessment Package: Grade 8 and thought it would be a great game to use when ever you needed a few extra minutes. It would also be a great tool for supply teachers to have. Decks of cards are fairly cheap and if you brought four or five decks with you on your jobs, you couldhavae the students playing a game while practising their number facts. It’s a win-win.

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4 responses to “Using a Deck of Cards in Math (Teaching Tip)”

  1. Hi Hilary,

    I don't like card games much. When I tried this out, I sometimes had a hard time following which colour was negative.

    As such, I think this game works better with older students and it might not work that well with Alzheimer patients. (just my thoughts anyway)

  2. Hi Chase .. it was the thought – as they've got such a range of people .. and there's one lady who's not in the Dementia unit – but is good with numbers and actually remembers loads – so she might be a candidate.

    Cheers – can understand your thought process though .. have a good weekend .. Hilary