# Games for Young Mathematicians Shape Card Games HOW TO

```Games for Young Mathematicians
Shape Card Games
HOW TO PLAY Shape Card Games
Materials
• 2 decks of Shape Cards with colored shapes (you will combine 2 decks for some
games).
• 2 decks of Shape Cards on colored card stock with shapes in black and white (you
will combine 2 decks for some games).
Game Progression
Number Match
Shape Match
Number and Shape
Match
Crazy Shapes
Go Fish
Match pairs by number.
Match pairs by shape.
Play with all cards and match by number and by shape.
Play Crazy Shapes game with shape cards matching by
number and shape. Object of the game is to be the first one
holding no cards.
Play Go Fish with shape cards. Choose whether you are
fishing for numbers or for shapes (not both in this game).
Picture Books
The Greedy Triangle
Shapes (Math Counts)
You can go back to the games (from previous sessions) where you think children are
learning the most and enjoying the most. Feel free to repeat games and vary their order.
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Games for Young Mathematicians
Shape Card Games
Number Match
1. Have children close their eyes and lay out 12 cards face up in a 3 by 4 array (or
reduce the number of and lay out 8 cards face up in a 4 by 2 array). (Make sure you
have at least some pairs—stack the deck to help out the game play.) Then, have
children open their eyes.
2. Demonstrate to children how to match two cards that have the same number. Say
the name of the number then pick up the two cards and put them in your pile.
3. Have children take turns matching pairs of cards that have the same number.
4. Replacing cards: You can choose to replace cards each time two are matched or
you can wait until there are no more moves and replace all the missing cards.
5. Winning: Children can count up how many pairs they made at the end. They will
probably have the same number of pairs since they are taking turns, but it’s fun
practice anyway (and fun to see if they can count the number of pairs they have
6. Variation: You could play this as a memory or concentration game by turning the
cards over to start, just make sure that you have sets of pairs!
About the learning in this game. The Number Match game works on numeral
recognition and introduces children to the first of two matching rules used in the game,
Crazy Shapes. In the Number Match game, children are focused on one rule—matching
by numeral. Later they will match by numeral and shape.
Children are still learning how to play games and here they are practicing skills like
taking turns, finding pairs or matches, keeping track of and counting up cards. These
skills are important in and of themselves because they allow children to access other
opportunities for card games such as Crazy 8s, Uno, Go Fish, and Top It (War). These
card games have mathematical elements including numeral recognition, comparing
numbers, logic, strategy, rule shifting, and classification that are worthwhile and can
extend children’s learning outside of school. For most children, learning game-playing
skills takes time, patience, and explicit support to develop.
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Games for Young Mathematicians
Shape Card Games
Shape Match- 3, 4, 5 or 6 shapes
1. Start by sorting the deck to keep just 3 types of shapes (e.g. triangle, square, and
hexagon which is easier to start with; or square, rhombus, rectangle to challenge
children). Set aside the other cards for later. When children are ready, you can add
more shapes into the game.
2. Have children close their eyes and lay out 12 cards face up in a 3 by 4 array (or
reduce the number of and lay out 8 cards face up in a 4 by 2 array). (Make sure you
have at least some pairs—stack the deck to help out the game play.) Then, have
children open their eyes.
3. Demonstrate to children how to match two cards by their shape. Say the name of
the shape then pick up the two cards and put them in your pile.
4. Have children take turns matching pairs of cards that have the same shape.
5. Replacing cards: You can choose to replace cards each time two are matched or
you can wait until there are no more moves and replace all the missing cards.
7. Winning: Children can count up how many pairs they made at the end. They will
probably have the same number of pairs since they are taking turns, but it’s fun
practice anyway (and fun to see if they can count the number of pairs they have
6. Variation: You could play this as a memory or concentration game by turning the
cards over to start, just make sure that you have sets of pairs!
About the learning in this game. The Shape Match game works on shape recognition
and introduces children to the second matching rule in the game, Crazy Shapes. In the
Shape Match game, children are focused on learning one rule—matching by shape.
Later, they will match by numeral and shape.
Children are still learning how to play games and here they are practicing skills like
taking turns, finding pairs or matches, and keeping track of and counting up cards.
These skills are important in and of themselves because they allow children to access
other opportunities for card games such as Crazy 8s, Uno, Go Fish, and Top It (War).
Many card games have mathematical elements including numeral recognition,
comparing numbers, logic, strategy, rule shifting, and classification that are worthwhile
and can extend children’s learning outside of school. For most children, the game
playing skills take time, patience, and explicit support to develop.
Number and Shape Match
1. Start by sorting the deck to keep just 3 types of shapes (e.g. triangle, square, and
hexagon; or triangle, rhombus, rectangle). Set aside the other cards for later. As the
children become familiar with the game, you can add in more shapes.
2. Have children close their eyes and lay out 12 cards face up in a 3 by 4 array (or
reduce the number of and lay out 8 cards face up in a 4 by 2 array). (Make sure you
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Games for Young Mathematicians
Shape Card Games
have at least some pairs—stack the deck to help out the game play.) Then, children
can open their eyes.
3. Tell children they can match cards by number or by shape to get a pair.
4. Have children take turns matching pairs of cards.
5. Replacing cards: You can choose to replace cards each time two are matched, or
you can wait until there are no more moves and replace all the missing cards.
6. Winning: Children can count up the number of pairs they have at the end. They will
probably have the same number of pairs since they are taking turns, but it’s fun
practice anyway (and fun to see if they can count the number of pairs they have
7. Variation: You could play this as a memory or concentration game by turning the
cards over when the children have their eyes closed. Making pairs in this version is
more difficult because children have to hold two rules in their head—they can pair
cards by number or shape—and they have to remember the location of the cards.
There may be some cards left over at the end of the game.
complexity as children have to switch between the rules to match by shape and to
match by number. Keeping two rules in your head at once is an important executive
function skill and fun for children to practice. It’s okay if they make mistakes and need
reminding from the teacher or a friend. It’s a game, so keep it funny and light when
children make mistakes or forget one of the rules.
Crazy Shapes
This game is similar to Crazy 8s but you are matching cards on shape or number rather
than suit or number as you would with a standard deck of cards.
1. It helps to first demonstrate how to play Crazy Shapes, before beginning actual
game play. To do so, deal out 3 cards to each child and to yourself face up. Place
the rest of the deck in the middle of the table and turn over the top card; place it
next to the deck to create a separate discard pile.
2. The object of the game is to have no cards left in your hand by matching either
shape or number. The “crazy shape” card with many shapes on it and no numbers
are wild and can represent any shape.
3. Players have to match the top card—by shape or number—with a card in their
hand. If a match can be made, the player puts the card on the top of the discard
pile face up and says what the match is—i.e. “Match on 4” or “Match on
hexagons.” That card becomes the new top card and it’s the next players turn.
4. However, if a player cannot make a match, but has a “crazy shape” card in her
hand, she can play that card and name which shape the next player has to play
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Games for Young Mathematicians
Shape Card Games
from.
5. If players can’t make a match and doesn’t have a crazy shape card, they have to
draw from the deck until they can make a match. Keep playing until a player has no
more cards. If you run out of cards in the deck, reshuffle the discard pile.
6. It might help to take your turn first so you can talk aloud about your possible
moves. Support each child in turn by having children also talk through their options.
7. Holding the cards in your hand so others can’t see. Once the children understand
the game, deal out 5 cards to each child and to yourself face down (deal out 3
again if 5 is too many for the children). Tell the children to pick up their cards
carefully without showing the other players. Demonstrate how to hold the cards in
your hand so others can’t see them. It may difficult for some children, but
something they can practice. Place the rest of the deck in the middle and turn over
the top card and place it next to the deck as the discard pile. Continue to play as
you did when children’s .
8. Winning: The first player who has no cards left wins.
9. If the game is too long. You can always decide to stop the game early. You could
just decide that the player with the fewest cards wins or call it a draw and have a
rematch another day.
About the learning in this game. In this game, children are practicing their shape and
numeral recognition, but their brains are working on a lot more than that. They have to
pay attention to the cards in their hand and to the rule shifting. Sometimes they will
want to match on number, and sometimes they will want to match on shape,
depending on the cards in their hand and the top card in the discard pile. What the
“best” move will be is constantly changing and they have to pay attention to their game
play as well as the other players’.
As they get more experienced, they will start paying attention to strategy—which card
will be easier or harder to get rid of? When should I play the wild card? What shape
should I name when I play the wild card?
As we wrote above, children are practicing skills like taking turns, finding pairs or
matches, keeping track of and counting up cards. These skills are important in and of
themselves because they allow children to access other opportunities for card games
such as Crazy 8s, Uno, Go Fish, and Top It (War). Many card games have mathematical
elements including numeral recognition, comparing numbers, logic, strategy, rule
shifting, and classification that are worthwhile and can extend children’s learning
outside of school. For most children, the game playing skills take time, patience, and
explicit support to develop.
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Games for Young Mathematicians
Shape Card Games
Go Fish
1. Deal out 5 cards to each child and to yourself. Decide if you are fishing for numbers
or shapes. Decide whether or not to remove the wild cards.
2. Start with children placing their cards face up on the table. Demonstrate how to
play the game. Once children understand the rules of the game, show them how to
hold the cards in their hand so other players can’t see. Place the rest of the deck,
“the pool”, in the middle face down. (You can spread out the “pool” of fish or keep
it in a pile.)
3. Players find any pairs they have already in their hand and put those in a pile near
them on the table. They will count their pairs at the end of the game.
4. Each player is trying to make pairs to put down in their pile. Players ask each other
for a card they need to make a pair with a card that is already in their hand. Alex,
the player whose turn it is asks, Ben, another player for cards with a particular
number (or shape), “Do you have any 4s?”. If Ben has a 4, he must hand it over and
Alex puts down her matching pair. If Ben has none, he says, “Go Fish”. Alex draws
a card from the pool and places it in her hand. Then it is the next person’s turn.
5. The game ends either when a player is out of cards or when no more matches can
6. Winning: Either the player who gets out of cards first or the player who has made
the most pairs wins. Or, you can play two winners…
About the learning in this game. This game is slightly easier than Crazy Shapes
because players are only focusing on one rule at a time-either making pairs on shape
or pairs on number. However, there is still a lot to learn. In this game children have to
name the number or the shape they want, so practicing that vocabulary is part of the
game. Players are keeping track of the cards in their hand and what the best move
might be. They should probably choose to ask the other player with 4 cards in their
hand rather than the player with only 1 card in their hand. They may be able to pay
attention to what cards other players have asked for to know what other people have in
their hands (if they can’t already see).
As we wrote above, children are practicing skills like taking turns, finding pairs or
matches, keeping track of and counting up cards. These skills are important in and of
themselves because they allow children to access other opportunities for card games
such as Crazy 8s, Uno, Go Fish, and Top It (War). Many card games have
mathematical elements including numeral recognition, comparing numbers, logic,
strategy, rule shifting, and classification that are worthwhile and can extend children’s
learning outside of school. For most children, the game playing skills take time and
patient and explicit support to develop.
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Games for Young Mathematicians
Shape Card Games
Polygon
Polygon Name
Defining Attributes
Triangle
3 sides
Square
4 sides
4 right angles
4 sides the same length
Rhombus
4 sides
all sides the same length
Rectangle
4 sides
4 right angles
opposites sides same length and
parallel
Pentagon
5 sides
Hexagon
6 sides
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