Math Card Games for Kids!

April 26, 2020

I love teaching math with a deck of cards! It is simple, the games are usually a lot of FUN, and a deck of cards is accessible to almost every child out there.

I have shared plenty of card games in the past, but today I wanted to share two more of my favorites for kindergarten, first, and second-grade students. Both of these games are easy to play and easy to differentiate!

You can watch how to play each game in the video below with a little demonstration, or you can continue scrolling to read how to play.

First up, is the game “I Spy.”

Most students are familiar with the popular “I spy…” game played in car trips all over the world, so it’s easy to transition them to playing with cards!

To play this game, you will lay out all the cards in a grid. Then one student will go first and say something like, “I spy two cards that make the sum 12.” The other player will try to find any two cards that make the sum twelve and remove them from the grid. Then, it’s their turn to find a sum! Students keep playing until all the cards have been removed.

Ways to differentiate this game:

  • Use 3 addends “I spy 3 cards that make the sum ___”
  • Use addition and subtraction. “I find 3 cards that make the difference ___”
  • Use multiplication and/or division!
  • Use number identification for preschool-kinder students! “I spy the number 8.”

This is a fun and simple game to play to practice all sorts of math skills!


The second game I wanted to share is called, Wild Jacks

card games for kids

To play this game, you will want to remove all the kings and queens from a deck of cards. You will need at least 2 players and in the video above, I shared the 2 main ways to differentiate this game for K-1 students, and then again for 2nd-3rd grade students. I will describe each briefly below.

To set up the game, each player will receive 5 cards and there will be a “target” number of 2 cards flipped in the middle.

For the K/1 version, students will add those 2 cards together to find their target number. Shown above, the target number is (4+9) 13. Students will take turns looking at their 5 cards in front of them and try to make the target number in any way they can by adding or subtracting. Jacks are wild in this game! Hence the name, Wild Jacks.

For the bottom hand above, students could do this in many different ways:

wild J (3) + 10

5 + 4 + 1 + J(3)

J(12) + 1


Once they make the target number, they remove those cards and put them to the side in a pile. Then they’ll replace the cards with new ones so they always have 5 cards. Then, the second player will go. Students go back and forth until there are no more cards left in the pile. To see who wins, students count up all the cards they used throughout the game to make the target number. Whoever has the most, wins! This should entice them to use as many cards as they can to reach that target number.

If a student cannot make the target number with their 5 cards, they must discard all 5 of their cards to a discard pile and receive 5 new cards! Their turn is skipped and the next player goes.

For the 2nd/3rd grade version, the game is played the same way except the target number is not made by adding. It is simply the number we flipped. So above, the target number would be 49. Students will still try to make that target number in any way they can using the most cards possible, but this time they can use multiplication, addition, subtraction, and division all at the same time!

An example for above using that bottom hand to make the target, 49, would be: 10 x 4 + J(9) and they could remove all 3 of those cards to add to their pile!

Both “I Spy…” and Wild Jacks are fun games to teach math to your students both in the classroom or at home.

If you’re looking to use these games during this time of distance learning, feel free to send my video link above to your parents and students so they can see exactly how to play!

If you’re looking for more easy-to-play card games, check out my playlist below with tons of fun math games:


Looking for more standards-based math games that will engage your learners and save you lots of time?!

Join hundreds of primary teachers over in the SJT Math Club:


Pin to remember:

I love using these math card games to teach kindergarten, first, and second grade students. These card games for kids are perfect to play in the classroom or at home with family! Head over to the blog post to see how to play each one.

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  • Your games are easy to play & just what I’m looking for at this time. I’m a math interventionist for 1st through 5th graders. My “new position” since E-learning is to provide the students on my case load with fun games & activities.
    Today I feel I have found a gold mine!!! I send out an email once a week to the families encouraging them to play math games for about 10 minutes a day or more.
    Thank you SO MUCH, Susan for your inventive games!!! LOVE THEM!

  • From one MA teacher to another, thank you for your awesome videos! My class is loving Trash thanks to you! It was the perfect math game to share for remote learning! Thank you!

  • When playing I-Spy… we are playing with ALL the cards correct?? … what are all the face cards in this game? 10?? And if there are multiple ways of making an equation does it have to be exactly the cards you are looking at to make the correct equation since that’s how the game I-SPY is played?? The sum of 2 cards make 11… I’m looking at 8 and 3… but the player pulls 9 and 2… is this ok?? Trying to explain to a first grader.


    • Sorry I am seeing this so late, Linda! Yes that it totally fine! As long as the numbers equal the sum, they can go ahead and take those! It is a great way to show that you can combine different numbers to create the same sum.

  • I love the I spy game. Trash was the favorite last year! I cannot wait to play it this year.
    Thank you for making math fun!

  • Do you have all your math K-2 math card games in one location that I could send to my parents that are in my online class?

  • I’m a retired teacher of grades k- 2. These are great games. I’m using them with my grandgirls. Even over ZOOOM we are enjoying them. You are so kind to share all your ideas and your videos are fantastic. Blessings to you. 🤗