Concept: Greater than/ Less than (great for 3-5 year olds, but fun for older siblings, too)
Players: 2 or more
Materials: Rook Cards
Object: To collect the most cards by getting a third card that goes in between the first two.
How to play: Mix the cards well. Place the full stack of cards in the middle of all the players. The first person takes 2 cards and lays them in front of herself. She puts the lower card to the left and the higher card to the right. She then draws the next card in the stack. If it is in between the first two, she gets to keep all three. If it is less than the lowest or greater than the highest, she puts all three in the discard pile next to the draw stack. If the first two cards are either next to each other or an exact match, then obviously no whole number is in between, so she has to discard those (either before drawing the third card or after, depending on how long it takes her to realize that nothing will fit in between). Then the next player takes a turn. Play continues until the whole stack has been used. The lucky player with the most cards wins!
How to maximize the math learning going on: Most importantly, let the kid take his time to think through it himself. Let’s say he drew 4 and 11. He then turns the next card in the stack over, let’s say it’s a 9, and asks himself, ”Is 9 in between 4 and 11?” When he figures it out, ask him, “How did you know?” and help him put words to the strategy he used to figure it out. For example, if he says, “I counted up and figured it out,” you could say, “Oh, very smart, you used a counting strategy and found out that 9 comes after 4, but it’s still before 11. Good thinking!” If he says, “I just knew that 9 was bigger than 4 but not as big as 11,” you can compliment him specifically saying, “Wow, good mental math. You’re developing a really good sense of what numbers are bigger and smaller. I can tell your math brain is turned on!” If he can’t express how he figured it out, ask questions and help him come up with a way to explain his thinking. If he says the number is in between, but that's not correct, you can still ask, "How did you figure that out?" and keep questioning to help him discover his own mistake. This is a very powerful skill in math--self-checking. When it’s your turn, think aloud to model how you solve problems. “OK, I need to compare these two numbers. I know that 6 is less than 8, so I’ll put the 6 to the left of the 8 (I actually make them face the right way for Elodie, rather than for myself) with a little space between them. Hey, I noticed that there’s only one number that is between 6 and 8—7! So if I don’t get a 7, I won’t get to keep these cards!” Have fun learning math together!