War!(HUH!) What is it good for? (Absolutely lots in Math!)

With my family on the go so much during the non-lazy days of summer, we need easy games to entertain the tiny humans that don’t require mass amounts of attention from the adults (who are often in conversation). Enter the game of War. This versatile game can be used for all age groups and can really keep your child’s skills in arithmetic in check during the “summer slump”.

How to Play (Basic Version)

  1. Grab a deck of cards (I keep one in my purse and in the car at all times). You don’t have to, but I prefer to take out the face cards and jokers. Shuffle the rest and divvy out to all who are playing.
  2. All players shove all of their cards into a “deck” and keeps the deck face down.
  3. All players (at the same time to avoid cheating) flip the first card. The player with the largest value is the winner and takes all of the cards in the round.IMG_5434
  4. If there is a tie (that is the largest value), those players place 3 cards on their original face down and flip the fourth card. Whichever player NOW has the largest value gets all of the cards from the round. IMG_5435
  5. Continue playing until either a) one player has all of the cards; or b) you get sick of playing. The player with the most cards is the winner.

Additional Versions

  • For younger players: Use only 2-5 from the decks and play with those. The game dot cardsgoes faster and they are working only with 2, 3, 4, and 5. You can use the aces as 1. Even better, use number cards or dot cards (see below for links). Print on cardstock (4 cards per number) or go online and buy a set.
  • For any age: You can also play and whoever gets the smallest value wins. This is great for preK-1st graders!
  • For students who need review with addition: Play two cards at a time and add them. The player with the largest sum is the winner of the round.
  • For students who need review with multiplication: Play two cards at a time and multiply them. The player with the largest product is the winner of the round.
  • For grades 5-7: red cards are negative values; black cards are positive values. Flip over one card. If I have a red 6 and you have a black 2, you are the winner since positive values are always greater than negatives. IMG_5434
  • For grades 6-8 (or 7-8 if using Common Core): Play two cards and add them, using reds as negatives and blacks as positives. The player with the largest sum is the winner of the round.
  • For grades 6-8 (or 7-8 if using Common Core): Play two cards and multiply them, using reds as negatives and blacks as positives. The player with the largest product is the winner of the round.
  • For grades 6-8, use only values ace (for 1) through 5. Flip the first card; that is your base. Flip the second card; that is your exponent. The player with the highest value wins  the round.

Different Sets of Cards:

  • You could probably look on Amazon for different card types, but I love the sets at 52 Pickup. They are of high quality and there are many different types ranging from dot cards to ten frames to cards that go through the thousands (so you can work on place value!)



War!(HUH!) What is it good for? (Absolutely lots in Math!)

How Many Are Hiding?

This is a great game for tiny humans in need of some entertainment while waiting at a restaurant. Just make sure to ask for an extra children’s cup to play.

Age Level: 3-6 year olds

Materials: children’s plastic cup (any cup will do, just not transparent), a set of objects (I used goldfish for the example, as that was what was in my purse! Other options are pennies, beans, tiny annoying toys, etc.)

How to Play: Place out a certain number of ‘stuff’. Normally for me, it is however many I have in my purse! I would recommend starting with 5 or less, see how they do, and adjust as needed. The first time I played with my 5 year old, we started with 10 and it was quite frustrating for him. They catch on and you can up the number as they grow!

  1. Have your child count how many there are. IMG_5269
  2. Have your child close his/her eyes. Hide some of the objects under the cup.IMG_5276      IMG_5275
  3. Ask your child to open his/her eyes. Ask the following:
    1. How many do you see?
    2. If there were _________ to start with, how many are hiding?
  4. Allow your child to check their answer by lifting the cup.
  5. Ask the following:IMG_5274
    1. How many were hiding?
    2. How many were out?
    3. How many in all? (Woah! It is the same as what we started with! Weird!)
  6. Switch who hides and who plays.

Why play? Aside from counting one-by-one and ‘holding’ that number in their heads, students need lots of practice understanding that a number can represent an amount. That amount can be broken into parts (decomposed), but when we put them together (add them) they make the original number we had. This is part of the idea of conservation, which is critical for young mathematicians to understand (not the word but the idea) in order to add and subtract numbers.

Special thanks to my tiny human for playing this morning! Love ya, bud!



How Many Are Hiding?

Basic Addition Facts For Fluency: Beyond Flash Cards!!!

This is the second of a series of blogs regarding fluency of basic facts.

Memorizing any operational facts can be easy for some (who have photographic memories) and difficult for others. I tried and tried every type of “flash card” with my oldest and all it did was provide frustration, tears, and dislike for the math. We tried flash cards, memory games, on-line shoot the sum games. And none of them worked. I freaked out, knowing that if he didn’t get these facts down, it would be an uphill battle. But is it really? Do we need to focus on memorization or understanding???

This blog is about understanding and a teeny tiny bit of memorization. Please feel free to disagree, as this is a blog after all and participation is encouraged! However, at least read on before fighting the fight for memorizing only.

Depending on whether you live in a Common Core state or not, typically we want children to know fluently all of their facts to five by the end of Kindergarten and all of their single digit facts (10 + 10 is cool too) by the end of grade 1. Note I wrote “fluently” versus “to automaticity”. So what’s the difference? It means I get three whole seconds to figure it out. I may not be able to see the answer in 0.5 seconds, but using some strategic thinking I can get it. That’s the goal. Anything beyond is cool, but this is for all children.

Fun fact: If all you are going to do is memorize the sums for two single digit numbers, the amount of facts you need to memorize is 81. 81! That is a LOT! Have fun making 81 flashcards! No thank you!

So let’s dwindle the amount to memorize. Below are two strategies to teach your kiddos to make that 81 significantly less. (There are others, but if you focus on these two you are waaay ahead of the game!)

  1. Commutativity. This is a property (a rule that ALWAYS works in mathematics) of equality. Think about the distance you drive to work. And the distance you drive home. Now if you take the same route both times, you go the same distance. No matter if you start from home, or you start from work, your commute distance is the same. Commutativity works the same for numbers. I can add 3 + 5 or 5+3 and my result (the sum) is the same, 8. So if I use my commutative property, I now only have to memorize one of the two facts! I am now down to 45 facts! (You may think, “Hey, why isn’t it half of 81?” Well, the doubles such as 2 + 2 and 3 + 3 do not numerically have a commutative fact, so you are stuck with them.)
  2. Making 10. This is a big stinking deal. Your kiddos need to get under their belt the ways to make ten. (1 + 9, 2 + 8, 3 + 7, 4 + 6, 5 + 5 and the reversals based on strategy #1.) Why? For starters, we live in a base ten world. Once you hit 9, the next number literally moves over one spot to the left and now you have a double digit value. Once you hit 99, you move over one spot to the left and you now have a triple digit. And so on. Really though, let’s be practical. Is it easier to add 9 + 8 or 10 + 7? 10 + 7, because you can add the 0 + 7 easily. So if I can manipulate my digits to make a 10 +, I am good to go. Example: 9 + 6. I know that I only need one more to make 9 a 10. So I am going to take it from the 6. 9 + 6 = 10 + 5 = 15. If I know how to make a 10 + expression from the addition fact I am working with, I now go from 45 memorization facts to 25!

What are those 25 facts? 1 + 1, 2 + 1, 3 + 1, 4 + 1, 5 + 1, 6 + 1, 7 + 1, 8 + 1, 9 + 1, 2 +2, 3 + 2, 4 + 2, 5 + 2, 6 + 2, 7 + 2, 8 + 2, 3 + 3, 4 + 3, 5 + 3, 6 + 3, 7 + 3, 4 + 4, 5 + 4, 6 + 45 + 5 (Notice the largest sums are 10, because all others can be made using a 10 + strategy.) So could your child learn these facts? ABSOLUTELY! Just remember to include the others for them to practice their two cool strategies with!

Next Blog: Fun games to play to work on making ten!

HUGE NOTE: Please do not time your children. For many, it stresses them out and they lose focus. Also, if you time children before they master the strategies, it will encourage them to count on their fingers. Though that may work for these small values, it will not help them in the long run when adding much larger numbers.

Basic Addition Facts For Fluency: Beyond Flash Cards!!!