Motion Math Blog

3 Addition Games For Family Math Night

Many children can add with counting procedures, such as counting out each set (e.g. a set of 3 and a set of 5 for 3 plus 5) before combining the set and counting the result to get the sum (e.g. eight). The challenge is helping them recognize and internalize the many valid strategies for adding two numbers together. For example, when adding 14 and 27:
• You can add the 10 and the 20 and then the 4 and 7 and then combine.
• You can add the 7 to 14, get 21, and then add the 20.
• You could take 6 from the 27, add it to the 14 for an even 20, and then add the remaining 21.

Playing these fun addition games with your child can deepen his or her relationship with addition and develop fluency with multiple ways of adding, while you spend quality time together!

Go Fish, With an Addition Twist!
This game adds another level of challenge to the classic game of Go Fish – the key here is to get as many pairs that add up to 10 as you can! You’ll need a deck of cards for the group as well as a piece of paper and pencil for each player. Please note that ace = 1; jack, queen and king = WILD cards, which means that they can be any number a player needs to make 10.

  1. Each player is dealt five cards, with the remainder of the cards placed in the center of the player’s circle. (My siblings and I called those cards “the pool”; we thought fish could live in any body of water!)
  2. Each player should examine the cards in their hand and set aside any pairs that add up to 10, and record those combinations on their own sheets of paper. Replace the cards that have been paired with additional cards from the pool, until each player is holding five cards again.
  3. Taking turns, each player should ask another player for a card to make “10.” For example, if I were playing with Jacob, and my cards were 3, 4, 8, 9, 3 – I’d ask, “Jacob, do you have a 7, because 3 plus 7 equals 10.”
  4. If Jacob has a seven, I’d take his card, record the combination 3+7 = 10 on my piece of paper, and set aside the pair. I’d draw another card from the pool and my turn would end.
  5. If Jacob does not have a seven, he would say, “Go fish,” and I’d draw another card from the pool. I’d check the newest card to see if it would pair with any of my other cards to make a 10. If it doesn’t, I’d hold the card and my turn would end. If it does, I’d set the pair aside, record the combination on my piece of paper, and my turn would end.
  6. If a player runs out of cards, but there are still cards in the pool, he or she should draw two and continue playing.
  7. Play ends when all the cards have been paired into tens. The player with the most pairs of tens wins.

Variations of this math game:
For younger children, remove the jack, queen and king cards. Simply play with ace – 10 cards.
Try different sums near 10, such as 9, 11, or 12. You can also make Jack = 11, Queen = 12 and King = 13 and make 14 the pair goal.
For more than four children, play with multiple decks of cards, shuffled together.

For discussion: After playing this activity, you might want to ask your kids some questions such as:
• What did you think of the “wild” cards and how did assigning values to Jack, Queen and King change the game?
• What do you think of playing with more cards? What do you think of playing with fewer cards? Will it be less or more difficult to make 10? Why?
• How did changing the pair goal affect the game?

Addition War
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to capture more prisoners than your opponent. To embark on this mission, you need a deck of cards for this two player math game. Please note that ace = 1; jack = 11; queen = 12; and king = 13.

  1. Split the deck between both players evenly.
  2. Each player plays a hand by turning two cards face up, and says the sum of those two cards, for example: “4 plus 11 is 15.”
  3. The player with the greater sum wins the skirmish, capturing his or her opponent’s cards, and placing them with his own played cards into his or her prisoner pile.
  4. Is there a tie for the greater sum? This skirmish is now a battle: each player places two cards face down, then a pair of cards face up. The greatest sums of these new cards captures everything on the table. Is there another tie? Repeat the 2-down-2-up battle pattern until someone breaks the tie. The player who wins the battle captures all the cards played in that turn.
  5. Repeat steps 2 – 4 until all of the prisoners (cards) have been claimed. The winner is the player who has more cards.

Variations of this math game:
Advanced Addition War: Use three (or four) cards for each skirmish and add them together to find the greater sum.
Addition War with Allies: Call in the reinforcements! Each player can use his or her own deck of cards and pair up to play two on two. You can modify the rules in any of the following ways:
• Each player flips over two cards and finds the sum. The pair of cards that makes the greatest sum is presented to the other team. The team with the pair that makes the greatest sum wins all eight cards per skirmish. In case of ties, you can conduct battles in a 2-down-2-up battle pattern.
• Each player flips over two cards. Each team finds the sum of all four cards they’ve flipped over. The team whose cards have made the greater sum wins all eight cards per skirmish. In case of ties, you can conduct battles in a 4-down-4-up battle pattern.
Addition Boot Camp: For younger children, only use the cards from ace to five. As they become more confident in their mental arithmetic skills, you can reintroduce sixes, sevens, etc. back into the game.

For Discussion: Talk with your learner(s) after playing Addition War and get them thinking about how they can take ownership of the game and flex their creativity.
• What new rules would you include for the next round? Why do you think we should play with those rules?
• What rules can make this game more challenging? Why?
• What was your favorite version of War?

Motion Math: Hungry Fish, our addition and subtraction game for ages 4 to 44
You will need one iOS device: an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

  1. Download Motion Math: Hungry Fish from the App Store.
  2. Play through the intro level, joining two bubbles together to form a sum with instant addition and feeding the sum to your hungry fish.
  3. Explore the different levels in both the reef and the cave – what happens when you make an incorrect sum in the cave?
  4. Win additional colors and fins to customize your fish!


Tap the fish icon to create a new player. That way, different kids can compare the colors and fins they’ve won and which levels of the reef and cave they’ve swum through.

For discussion:
• How many different ways can you make a sum, using two bubbles? For example, what combinations could you use to make 7?
• If you could use more than two bubbles, how many ways can you make a 7? What about 8? For more advanced learners, if your goal were to create a sum of “n”, how many ways can you make it?
• Can you draw a picture of all of the bubbles you’d want for your fish, if your fish has a 35 on it? Bonus points if you email us your picture!
• Did you like the reef or the cave better and why?

We’ve pulled together three fun addition games you can play as a family. You might want to play Go Fish, With an Addition Twist! at a kitchen table or on the playroom rug. Other games, such as Motion Math: Hungry Fish, can be played anywhere. Let us know which of these games your family has played and what you think! If you have other addition activities or games you like, please share them in the comments!

3 Responses to “3 Addition Games For Family Math Night”

  1. This game is from Family Math Fun! It is a free download from the National Adult Literacy Database (NALD): http://www.nald.ca/library/learning/familymath/cover.htm

    This is a kind of solitaire, based on the game called Pyramid. It helps kids learn all the pairs of numbers that add up to 10.

    Deck: Take all the jokers and face cards out of the deck. Use the cards from ace to 10 only.

    Layout: Lay the cards out face up. Start with 1 card; lay 2 cards on top of it, so that all 3 cards show, but the second row covers the card in the first row.

    Then add another row, this time using 3 cards.

    Keep adding rows. Each row will take 1 more card than the row before.

    Make 6 rows. The last row will take 6 cards.

    You will be left with a pack of cards in your hands.

    (You can see the layout in the book at the link above)

    Play
    Your job is to take away free cards from the table in sets that add up to 10. A card is free when no part of it is covered by any other card. Look for sets of 2 cards that add up to 10, for example, 5 + 5, or 1 + 9, or 3 + 7, or 4 + 6, or 8 + 2. 10 does not need any other card, since 10 + 0 is 10. Whenever you see a free 10, you can add it to the other sets you have made. If you clear all the cards from the table, you have won!

    To make a set, you can take 2 cards from the table, or 1 from the table and 1 from the deck in your hand. As you use the cards from the bottom row, you will free the cards in the next row, and you can use those cards to make sets that add to 10.

    If you lift up a card and that frees the card in the row above, you can use both cards to make a set.

    First check the layout to see if you can make sets with any free cards. Then turn over the first 2 cards from the deck in your hand. If you can use the turned up card to make a set of 10, you may do so, or you may decide not to. Your choice. If you use the top card, you can then use the next card, if you like. Then turn over the next 2 cards from the deck in your hand, then the next, and so on. When you have come to the end of the deck, turn it over and start again from the top.

    Make it easier
    Turn over the cards in your hand one at a time. Set out only 5 rows instead of 6.

    Make it harder
    Turn over the cards in your hand 3 at a time.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing, Kate! 🙂

  3. […] Playing card games like Addition War […]

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