Primary Math Card Games

In first grade, my favorite math games are the easiest!  And they all use only one material...

A pack of playing cards!

Today, let's talk about two of my favorite math card games that are great for building base 10 understanding!

Total of 10

In total of 10, students are trying to find cards that total 10.  The goal is to empty their total of 10 board so that they have no cards left.

I love this game because it's a solitaire style game...and it can be played independently or as a team.  Here's how to play!

Layout 20 cards in a 5x4 array.

Then, pick up cards that total 10.

When I model this game whole group, students quickly find pairs that make 10.  And then, we get stuck because there are no more card pairs to make 10.  So, I push them by saying, "I still see cards that can make 10.  Do you?"

And we discover that we can use 3 or more numbers to make 10!

The game is over when we cannot make any more totals of 10.  Again, the goal is to have as few cards left over as possible.  This is actually difficult to clear the board entirely.  Try it as an's kinda addicting! #ilovecardgames

This game can easily be differentiated by playing total of 20 with your higher kids.  And for my struggling learners, we use 10 frames to scaffold and help them play successfully.  You can see that intervention in action along with the recording sheets we use in this blog post.

Add It Up By Tens

This game is the next level up from total of 10.  We play this one later in the year.  Set up this game just like total of 10 in an array of 5x4.  This time you will be adding all of the numbers by composing groups of ten.  As you find a total of 10, leave the pile to the side.  When no more tens can be found, add up the groups of tens and the left overs to find the total.

Then, students record how they found the total...

I love this game because it pushes kids to use a base 10 strategy to add.  This is great for kiddos who insist on counting on or all and never attempt to compose 10s!

Tens Go Fish

This game is basically like Go Fish except you are pairing cards that make ten.  For this game, I always post a sentence frame for students to use as they play.

"I have 2.  Do you have an 8 to make 10?"

This game is played with 2-4 players and is great to play before playing total of 10 to build fluency with pairs of 10.

You can also find ways to scaffold this game for your struggling learners in this blog post.

These games and lesson plans to go along with them can be found in my Guided Math Workshop Plans or Curriculum Bundle!


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