Sunday, July 18, 2010

Black and Red TripleMatch: A Card Game for Adding Integers

I saved Ben's post on this idea, and now I've used Kate's idea for turning his problem into a card game. I've added scoring and some rules of play.

My Beginning Algebra course (community college) has an 'hour by arrangement' associated with it, and I intend to have lots of content-related games available during that time. During our first week, we'll be reviewing. [I decided I like the acronym FIDO for all of the important pre-algebra concepts that students usually have trouble with: fractions, integers, distributive property, and order of operations. FIDO is a math student's best friend; if the FIDO skills are learned well, they will faithfully help with algebra work. I hope I'm not being too silly...]

So for the first week I want fraction games (I have a game book with a deck of cards, called Fraction Jugglers, that we can use) and integer games. I know they like card games. So here's Kate's game, elaborated.

Red and Black TripleMatch

Use a regular deck of cards. 2 to 5 people can play. (More people could play with a double deck.)

Card values
Ace = 1
Jack = 11
Queen = 12
King = 13
Black cards are positive numbers, red cards are negative.
Joker changes the sign of the card it’s played with.

Dealer shuffles and deals out 8 cards to each player, and then lays down three target cards in the middle. Your goal is to match each target separately. On each turn, you discard a card and draw a card from the discard pile or the deck, and then discard.*

When you have all three targets, say ‘Triplematch!’ and lay down your cards in 3 piles for the other players to check.

If you'd like to lay down cards to match one or two piles before you've got all three, you can do that. (It could make the final match harder - those cards may not be changed after being laid down.) The advantage is that you have less cards in your hand to count against you if someone else wins first.

  • Winner gets 30 points.
  • Everyone else counts all cards in their hand for negative points (reds and blacks both count negatively at scoring time).
  • Game ends after each player has had a turn to deal. High score wins.

I’m excited about this game, but I think it might need some tweaking. I’ve just dealt myself a few hands. On the first, I only had to discard and draw once to make TripleMatch, so I thought it might be too easy. On the second, I had to draw 26 cards. Now I’m thinking it might be too hard. Does anyone have any ideas for making the triplematch easier?

If you try it, please let me know how this game works for you.

* Drawing first increases your chances of a proper total dramatically.


  1. I tried it with my son R (8), his friend L (9), and her mom E. They all thought it was too hard. L is pretty wary of math. I think if she watched other people playing and having fun, she might have liked it.

    But E and I came up with a better game for kids this age. Just try to make as many groups that add to zero as you can.

  2. I'm wondering if it should be incremental. It sounds like it's the gin rummy aspect that's hard for players?

    Deal 5 cards to each player and then flip up the three targets. The goal for each player is to make 3 stacks that get as close to each target as possible.

    On your turn, you draw a card or take the top discard and then either play on a stack or discard.

    Two scoring ideas:
    1) Your score at the end is the sum of how far off you were from each target in absolute value. A zero is perfect.
    2) Your score at the end is +1 for each card played and -1 for each point away from the target. So if the target was -3 and you played 4+-2+-7+1 (=-4) you'd score 4 cards - 1 away, 3 points. This would encourage more card playing and integer addition, instead of just trying to draw a card close to a target.

    To keep the eight, each player could get eight turns. Or you could play until someone matched all targets, etc.

  3. Incremental means laying down as you find matches, instead of at the end?

    That would help some. I think this group just wasn't into either math or game testing.

  4. So I tried some with my 10 year old, who has very limited exposure to negatives.

    We tried with each turn drawing, and playing or discarding, but it turned into waiting to draw a close card.

    We tried with each turn mandatory playing and it was a little better. You have to make some tough choices. It increased the value of zero pairs and near zero pairs. Then the end condition can be X cards played. (We tried X=8.)

  5. This is exciting. I'm going to write up all the versions of TripleMatch, and the Zeros game, and see what my students do with it. I'll ask them to make up their own versions, too, if they'd like.


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