Making Math Fun with Card Games

Sometimes math can be war at our house! The math teacher in me is constantly trying to invent new ways to make math engaging and fun.

Over the past few weeks I have taken the card game War and developed several ways to play such that my son and I review his basic number sense and number bonds (addition skills).

To play War:

  • Remove all the face cards from the deck. With older children you can leave the face cards in and give them values (Jack is 11, Queen is 12, King is 13 and Ace is 1).
  • Divide the deck into two stacks, with the cards facing down. Give each player one stack of cards.
  • Each player flips over one card.
  • In the traditional game of War, the player whose card has the highest value wins and then gets to keep both cards.
  • If the cards match, then each player deals out 3 more cards and flips over a 4th card. The player with the highest card value wins all the cards.
  • The winner of the game is the player who has the most cards when all the cards have been used from the original stacks.

Here are some of our favorite twists:

Greater than/Less than – Similar to the traditional game, but when you play focus on the vocabulary. If I flip over a 7 and my son flips over a 5, he says “5 is less than 7.” Or, I could say “7 is greater than 5.”

Target Number – Before beginning the game, I assign a Target Number to both my son and myself. For example, his target number is 7 and mine is 9. If the sum of the cards flipped over match his target number then he gets to keep the cards. If the sum of the cards match my target number then I get to keep the cards. If the sum doesn’t match either, then the cards go in a discard pile.

Highest Sum – Instead of flipping one card over, he and I both flip two cards over. We each find the sum of our cards. The player with the highest sum wins all four cards.

The card games are not only engaging and educational, but are a great “assignment” for an older sibling to play with a younger sibling. One of my children’s favorite games is a home made version of Go Fish. I made cards with the number words (“seven”) and cards with the number digits (“7″). They can also play memory with that same home made deck of cards!

These are just a few of our favorite twists – What are some of yours?

When Michele’s not inventing her own math games, she can be found blogging about her journey into preparing her children for the real world just in case they don’t become famous rock stars at

Angie Kauffman
Angie, a domestically challenged nerd and mom of three very fun kids, is the founder of Real Life at Home.  Angie also listens to music every chance she gets, writes eBookspodcastsloves Pinterestdocuments the little moments in life on Instagram, and occasionally sleeps.


  1. says

    We love playing War, I’ll have to try some of your ideas. Thank you!
    We also play another game like War where the object is to get rid of all your cards. Starting off with even piles again and placing the higher/lower card onto the other player’s pile. You end up getting huge runs of cards going from one pile to the next.
    We also use domino’s for addition/subtraction. It came from the book Domino Addition and part of our curriculum lessons.


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