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Improve Math Skills With a Deck of Cards

Looking for a quick, fun activity to help young students improve math skills? Start with a deck of playing cards!

Here is a simple, engaging, and fun game to increase your child’s mental math ability. Children in kindergarten through 2nd grade in particular enjoy this game.

Right Before and Right After

This game can be played with two to four players.

  • Remove all face cards from the deck, and use the Ace as number 1.
  • Shuffle the deck and put it in a pile between players, numbers down.
  • One player turns over the top card. She reads the number, then has to tell the number that comes right “before” and right “after.” For example, if she turns over an 8, she says “8,” then “7 comes before 8, and 9 comes after.”
  • If all three numbers are correct, she keeps the card. If not, the card goes off to the side. The player with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
  • To increase the difficulty for older students, have the player pick two cards from the top of the pile, add them together to determine the sum, and then tell the number that comes before and after the sum. For example, he picks a 3 and a 9. The sum is 12. Before 12 is 11 and right after is 13.
  • Once two cards are easily mastered, try the game with three.


This game helps a child learn the important concept of “one more, one less.” Using mental strategies to quickly solve math calculations increases a child’s number sense and confidence. As well, mental math strategies are highly encouraged in Common Core State Standards.

> Kindergarten Math Activities

> Printable Math Activities

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