One of the easiest ways to practice integers is with a deck of cards. Take out all the face cards except the aces, which count as ones. Working in pairs is ideal, but groups of 3 or 4 will work. Below are some ideas for card games, but please be advised that card games are a waste of time if your students are struggling with integers. If a student can’t add 2 + (-7), they’re not suddenly going to be able to add them just because the numbers are now on a card. There are more efficient methods for guiding below level students to understanding integers.
These games are only good for students who have a good grasp of integers, but just need to work on speed. Plus they make a great end of the year or “just before Christmas break and we don’t want to do anything” activity. Or if you are tutoring a struggling student one on one and are actually going to play with the student yourself.
The winner is the one who ends up with the deck of cards or the one who has the most cards when time is called.
Deal the cards evenly between the players. Each player lays down two cards. They must add (or subtract or multiply, depending on your instructions) and whoever has the highest value wins. (You could modify to lowest value). For advanced students, change the number of cards laid down to 3 (or 4) instead of just 2.
This time, students may use any operation to get the highest value. For example, a 9 of hearts and a 3 of spades added together gives a -6, subtracted gives a +12 or -12, multiplied gives a -27 and divided gives a -3 (division never wins). The best option in this case is to subtract for the +12. The other student has an 8 of clubs and a 2 of spades. Multiplying them gives a value of +16, so the second student wins. (Students must inform each other which operation they have chosen. If the second student had chosen subtraction, for instance, then the first student would win the cards).
The winner is the one who no longer has any cards in their hand, or whoever has the most triples when time is called.
Each player gets seven cards, the rest are face down in a stack to draw from. They can set down triple sets when added, subtracted, multiplied or divided.
For example, a 6 of hearts and a 2 of spades could equal -4, 8, -8, or -3 (answers must be 10 or below since the highest value card is 10). So the student could set down the 6 of hearts, 2 of spades and an 8 of spades as a valid set.
To start the game, the first student lays down all the triples in his hand. He then draws a card to see if he can make a triple with the new card. If he can’t, it’s the other student’s turn. They continue taking turns until all cards are drawn.
As the students are playing, I’ll walk around the room and ask them to explain their triples.
Adding or Subtracting
The ideal size for this game is small groups of 3 or 4. Deal the whole deck of cards to the players. Players should keep their own cards face down in a stack. The first player picks up a card from her stack and lays it face up in the middle. Let’s say she shows an 8 of hearts (-8). She must say “pass,” because the total thus far is not 25. The next player then reveals a card from his stack, and lays it down next to the first player’s card. In this example, let’s say he has a 9 of spades (+9). The total so far would be +1, so the second player must now say “pass.” This keeps going until a player reveals a card that makes the total = 25, at which point the player who laid the card down would shout “25.” If a player says “pass” when the sum is 25, the first of the other players to shout “25″ wins.
It’s a good idea for students to keep a running sum written on a sheet of paper, as this can get pretty long. Or to make the game easier, simply make the target number lower.
Adding or Subtracting
For this game, it’s best to leave the face cards in. Black face cards are 10, red face cards are -10. Each player gets dealt 8 cards, the rest of the cards are face down in a stack to draw from. Flip the top card over, that becomes the target number. The first player draws a card and then sets down any pairs of cards that when added or subtracted equals the target number. Then it’s the next player’s turn. This goes around until a student runs out of cards or all the cards have been drawn. The player that runs out of cards first is the winner.