Seventeen: A Math-Builder Card Game

Seventeen: A Math-Builder Card Game Activity

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Your child probably knows that two plus two equals four. But what does it take to get to seventeen? Try this card game to explore all the possibilities, build math fact skills, and have a great time while you’re at it.

What You Need:

  • 1 deck of playing cards
  • 1 sheet of plain paper for a scorecard
  • Scrap paper and a pencil for each player/mathematician

What You Do:

  1. Prepare your materials. Start with your deck of cards. You will need all aces (each counts as “1’), and all numbered cards between 2 and 8. Make sure you pull out all nines, tens, jacks, queens, and kings. You can save them for more advanced games later.
  2. While this game can be played by up to four players, you’ll probably want to start with just two. Shuffle your number cards and put them face down on a table. Then have each player pull out five cards. Take turns putting cards down, one at a time, and counting the total made when you add the pile together.
  3. “Winning” and “Losing”: The goal is to get as close to 17 as possible. Let’s say, for example, that Player 1 puts down a “7” card, and then Player 2 puts down a “5” card. If Player 1 can add another “5,” she wins the round and gets a score of 17! That’s the clean way to win a round. But she can also win if she goes slightly over—say, to 19—but she must subtract the extra “2” from her score, so she only gets 15 points. The goal of the game (aside from complete Math Facts Mastery, of course!), is to have the largest number of points when the game is done.

Special note: Counting up the final scores usually means adding several digits. This may be a good stretch for some kids, but lots of first graders will find it hard. It’s helpful to have either a calculator, or a parent helper, or both ready.

Julie Williams, MA Education, has been working in education for more than twenty years. For the last five years, she has worked in classrooms with primary-level students learning to read. She also taught English and History for seventeen years at Aragon High School in San Mateo, California. She is the mother of two young sons.

Updated on May 23, 2013
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