Using Playing Cards and Dice To Teach Math

I began playing math games with my students using regular decks of cards.  However, over the years, I developed my own cards for several important reasons:

  • Regular cards do not have a zero, and zero is much too important in our base ten system to leave out.  Turning a queen or king into a zero is confusing for most children.
  • While teaching first grade, I discovered the ten-frame.  It allowed children to easily count the dots, if they needed to do so and  anchored the students to ten – a very important learning tool with our base 10 numbering system.  It is easy to see how many more are needed to make 10 if you have a 7, or 5, or 9, etc.
  • And lastly, these cards help children see if a number is odd or even.  If there is a dot that doesn’t have a partner, it is an odd number.  If all dots have a partner, it is an even number.
  • Masters for the these special cards can be found on the CD with directions for printing, laminating, and cutting out.



(random number generators)

All that you will really need are regular dice.  They are really cheap and easy to find at stores such as The Dollar Tree, the 99¢ Store, etc.  For the most part, you will need two dice.  There are a couple of games that require more.  One of my favorites is Oops! which requires five dice.

I also like those 1 ½ inch foam dice for younger children. You can get 12 for $4.99 (plus shipping and handling) at the Oriental Trading Company.  They make counting the dots much easier.

Some games need parent-made dice.  I buy those small wooden cubes from a crafts store or an educational supply store and mark them according to the instructions on the game.