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A Mathemagician’s Game for Making Ten

When I was a campus-based math instructional coach, my office was across from the 2nd Grade pod. One year, one of the teachers had a student who benefitted from leaving the classroom for brief periods of time, so it was not unusual for him to “run errands” that required him coming to my office.

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One afternoon, my buddy, Dominion, burst into my room to show me a magic trick! He held out a deck of cards and gave me the old line, “Pick a card, any card.” He told me to look at my card, but keep it private. I looked, and it was the 8 of clubs. We set it, face down, off to the side. He then proceeded to tell me that we needed to lay down all the other cards, face up, in an array. Once we had them all laid out (I noticed there were no face cards), he told me that we would take turns picking up pairs of cards that combine to make ten. As you can see in the picture, he chose an ace (1) and a 9. Each time we picked up the cards, we had to say the fact. His words, not mine! Kudos to his teacher for clearly communicating and reinforcing her expectations for mathematical discourse. We could also take the 10 card, but we had to say, “10 + 0 = 10”. We took turns, and the cards began to disappear. Finally, we were down to one card, a 2. Dominion proudly told me that he could now guess the card I had chosen. With great fanfare, he told me it was an 8. I played my part and dramatically said, “Oh my gosh! It’s magic!” Dominion rolled his eyes at me and said, “No, Ms. Boucher, it’s MATH! Eight and two make ten.”ย It was all I could do to keep a straight face.

Great “trick” right? While we were playing for combinations for ten, this game can easily be adapted for combinations of any number. You just need to manipulate the cards you’re using. If, for example, you were playing for combinations of seven, you’d use the Ace through 7 cards only.

Imagine how engaging this would be as a homework assignment. Give students a deck of cards and ask them to show someone at home the “magic trick.”

Looking for more games played with a deck of cards? Check out this post.

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  1. This is a great story! I have a student who has wanted to play with cards this whole week, but it wasn’t in any of his math station tubs. I am going to surprise him with this game tomorrow. He is going to be be thrilled!

  2. I used this game with my second graders and they were thrilled. I let them take cards back to their class to show off their magic. They also got to take a set of cards home and share it with their parents. One of them even came back and said he taught it to his dog! Thank you for sharing. This is definitely a favorite

  3. I will have my kids also do subtraction problems with the cards. Face cards can be any number I want to focus on. Thanks for the idea.

  4. How about you choose 13 pairs of cards (1 to 9) with a sum of 10. Choose one as your mystery card and lay it aside face down. Lay the others face down in a 5 x 5 array. Take turns turning cards over and removing those that have a sum of 10. A concentration game. When you are left with one card from the 5 x 5 reveal it and โ€œmagicallyโ€ reveal the mystery cardโ€™s identity. This has more of a game like feel while keeping the magic.

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