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Make Math More Fun for Your Special Needs Students With These Card Games!

written by: Anne Vize • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

Most teachers in special education like to have a grab bag of ready-to-go activities they can pull out at a moment’s notice. These card games and activities work well with high school learners with low numeracy skills. Kids love playing with cards, and they provide age-appropriate learning skills.

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    What You Need

    For this set of activities, the ‘what you need’ list is happily brief! But as one of your grab bag of special education math strategies, the possibilities are endless! You simply need one pack of playing cards. Take out the picture cards (King, Queen, Jack, Ace) but leave in all the number cards.Then get ready to play some great, fun math games for kids that will be enjoyed across age groups and ability levels.

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    Guess My Number

    This is one of a host of fun math games for kids who are learning about problem solving, numeral placement, place value and concepts such as more than / less than. Choose a student to sit at the front of the room, and give them two playing cards. Tell them not to show the cards to anyone else.

    The other students have the task of guessing the number on the cards, by asking questions. The teacher or another student records the number of guesses it takes to guess the number. The student at the front can only answer yes or no. (eg. Is it higher than 50, is it lower than 20?) The student at the front is allowed to order the cards whichever way they choose to make a two digit number (eg. 4 and 6 makes 46 or 64).

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    Place Value

    Give students three cards each, and ask them to arrange the cards to make the biggest number they can. For example, the cards 3, 4 and 6 can make the numbers 346, 436, 643, 634 etc. Students need to work out the strategy of placing the biggest numeral in the hundreds column and so on through to the units column.

    This math card game is another of the great special education math strategies to have in your grab bag if ideas. It encourages learners who struggle with place value to develop their skills in a fun and age appropriate way. It has the benefit of being one of those fun math games for kids who need concrete tools to help them understand number value.

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    More Place Value

    This math card game is simply the reverse of the one above. Students need to arrange the cards to make the smallest number possible which has three digits. Either of these games can be adapted by using more or less playing cards (and so make two digit or four digit numbers).

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    Odds and Evens

    Pair students and give each pair about ten to fifteen playing cards. Set a stop watch or timer to see how fast the pairs of students can sort the cards into two groups – one for odd numbers and one for even numbers. Remember to check for accuracy though – you may need to deduct points for pairs who make errors, or award bonus points for pairs who get all the cards sorted correctly.

    You can modify your special education math strategies to cater for different student needs with this math card game. Try giving each pair more or less cards, or using different sorting categories such as reds and blacks, or numbers that are or are not divisible by three.

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    Teamwork Challenge

    Give each student a single card, then divide the class into two teams. Ask each team to see how fast they can organize themselves into a line across the room from highest to lowest card numbers. Award points or prizes for the team members that can organize themselves into order the fastest. For more information about teamwork activities in special education, try this Bright Hub article.


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