A Math Game Kids Can Play With Cards – How Close Can You Get?



I was introduced to a math game kids can play with a regular deck of cards last year. To play the game all you need is a deck of cards and a basic knowledge of math.  The game itself is called, “How Close Can You Get” and is a great game to challenge and build your math skills.

How Close Can You Get?

Getting Started – The Basics

First thing is first and that is we need to trim down our deck of cards as we do not need the 10’s and face cards.  After those cards are removed, shuffle the remaining cards and keep them face down in a pile.

One of the nice parts of this game is that you can play this game with any number of players.  You can all play as individuals, cooperatively, or as teams.  This is a great benefit as you can really customize the game to fit your needs.

To play the game you deal out a total of 6 cards.  The first two cards will represent your “goal number” and are read together.  For example if you deal a 3 and a 7 your goal number would be 37.  The next four cards are dealt out below the goal number and these will be your worker numbers.

How Close Can You Get Deal
In this deal our goal number is 16. Our worker numbers are 6, 8, 8, & 7.

In the example shown above here, our goal is to get as close as possible to 16 using as many of the worker numbers as possible.  You can use the worker numbers in a variety of different ways in order to try and achieve the goal.  You can add, subtract, multiply, and divide to try to get to your goal number.  You can also combine cards to make bigger numbers such as combining the two 8’s to make 88.  Here are some possible answers for this play:

  • 7 – 6 = 1; 8 + 8 = 16; 16 * 1 = 16! An exact match using all 4 cards.
  • 8 + 8 = 16!  A match, but only uses two cards.
  • 6 + 8 = 14; 8 – 7 = 1; 14 + 1 = 15! Short by one using all 4 cards.
  • 88 / 7 = 14!  Short by 2, using three cards.

The winner is determined first by the closest match to the goal number.  The tie breaker is whomever used the most cards. The above answers here are listed in the order which they would have won.

Lets Try Another Example

How Close Can You Get Second Example
In this example our goal number is 39. Our worker numbers are 7, 8, 9, & 2.

Some examples of answers for this would be:

  • 7 + 8 = 15; 15 * 2 = 30; 30 + 9 = 39!  An exact match using all 4 cards!
  • 98 / 2 = 49; 49 – 7 = 42!  Over by 3 using all 4 cards.
  • 8 * 9 = 72; 72 / 2 = 36; 36 +7 = 43! Over by 4 using all 4 cards.

The Benefits

This game not only challenges your math skills, it also works on your creativity with numbers as well.  The game is also flexible that you could add in rules or victory conditions very easily.  A quick 3 for example:

  • Add in a Time Limit to come up with your answers.
  • Allow for more complex math to be used, such as square roots.
  • Add a point system in to keep score.

Now It Is Your Turn!

Here I am going to give two examples of plays and it is up to you to figure out the answers.  Leave them in the comment section below and don’t forget to show your work!

Example One

How Close Can You Get Example One

Example Two

How Close Can You Get Example Two

 Wrap Up

Overall this is a fun and easy game to play, yet one that can still challenge any level of player.  Add on top of that the tremendous flexibility that the game allows and we have a winner.

If you have any questions on how to play, please leave them in the comments below and I will make sure to promptly answer them.  Also, I look forward to seeing your answers for the above two examples… How Close Can You Get?

James W D

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19 Replies to “A Math Game Kids Can Play With Cards – How Close Can You Get?”

  1. I really like this! I think that it is a great idea for teachers to play with students. It would have helped me out as a kid.

    • I picked this game up from a retired Gifted Class teacher that is a client of my day job. I showed it to my kids and they both enjoyed the game, especially the creativity of it.

  2. Very cool! Thanks for sharing this game. I always loved math games as a kid and still do. My family also always had a deck or three of cards lying around the house so this would have been an awesome game for us to play on game night!!

    • This is definitely a fun and challenging game for all ages. I hope you give it a whirl and have some fun yourself.

    • Great to hear that Luis, I would love to hear how it works out for your family too! Hope your next game night is a great one!

  3. WOW!!!! i absolutely love this. I was wondering when someone was going to create a site like this. I have 5 kids at home (two are 18month twins) but I spend a lot of time with my older kids on the weekend cause I’m always trying to hold them hostage (dont tell anyone…lol) I love spending time with ALL my children and sometimes we dont have anything to do so i wind up spending money, buying expensive games, paying for movies on demand and those expenses add up.
    This will be perfect. Thanks so much 🙂

    • Charlotte, I do my best to ensure that I provide quality material here that ranges from free to expensive and everywhere in between. The goal of this site is to help promote family unity and building those family bonds that will last a lifetime.

  4. Great game! I just went out and spent 40 bucks on family games this weekend. Could have just bought a deck of cards instead. Gonna play this with the kids this weekend. Look forward to more.

    • Well, just know that the $40 you spent will be well worth it for the countless hours of family time that you will enjoy from them. This is just another game to add to the collection!

  5. You know what? I love MATH! This is a great game to play especially because kids get to practice their work in a fun way.

    Example one: 9X7-6+2=59
    Example two: 5X2+9-7=12

    Cheers! 🙂

  6. This looks like a very fun game. I am going to try to play it with my grand daughter the next time I see her. She will love it and probably beat my socks off!

    • It definitely is fun and a challenge. I really like how it challenges your creativity with the math. I hope you and your grand daughter have a blast! Let us know how it works out!

  7. Hi James – Great idea for a simple game for you and the kids. You have made it very easy to follow and get started. Good work!

    • Thanks a lot Toby, I appreciate that. I am glad the directions came across as simple as sometimes I struggle to articulate things like that. Good to see all this work is paying off.

  8. These sound like great learning game ideas that also promote education as well as fun. Can’t wait to try them with the kids!

    • I just introduced my kids to this game over the last couple weeks. My youngest, age 7, really likes the game and has been playing it on his own on occasion now too. I am pretty good at math myself, but this game can be really challenging at times and it really helps to shake off the rust!

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