Summer Card Sharks – Simple Games to Stop Brain Drain

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Lazy, Hazy Days

Nearly everyone looks forward to summer, especially elementary school kids. For grades K-6, summer generally means splashing, swinging, and staying far away from academics. Though vacation is a healthy break, it can unfortunately cause what educators call “brain drain” or skill loss.

This skill loss means that on long breaks, most students lose or forget the skills and material they learned during the school year. As a result, they enter the next school year behind grade level and needing to catch up. Many elementary students are likely to read some books over the summer for enjoyment, yet few are eager to sit and do math problems for fun. Therefore, summer math skill loss is nearly double that of reading.

Parents who are motivated for their children to practice math skills over summer often go about it in ways that are expensive, uninspired, and ultimately ineffective. Math camps are costly and tend to undermine the academic freedom that summer brings. Typical summer workbooks mirror the drudgery of homework. And math video games, while fun, add to screen time while also teaching players more about how to “beat” the game rather than actual math skills.

However, the lazy summer days don’t have to make for hazy math with elementary school kids. A simple deck of cards can provide numerous opportunities for students to maintain their math skills and have fun doing so.

Card Games

Card games are an easy and enjoyable way for elementary school kids to enhance their math skills over summer. There are many card games for all ages to enjoy, and parents can incorporate these games during family time. Once kids get the hang of the games, they can play with siblings, friends, or even by themselves in some cases.

Here are some card game suggestions that incorporate math skills for almost all elementary learners to enjoy:

  1. Memory: Playing “Memory” with young children using a deck of cards helps them identify numbers as concrete representations. By matching number pairs, children practice number recognition and visual memory. This game can be single or multi-player and can be varied depending on players’ ages.
  2. War: Using a deck of cards to play “War” with elementary school children helps them retain number values, understand the concept of greater-than and less-than, and even presents an introduction to mathematical probability.
  3. Crazy Eights: “Crazy Eights” is a multi-player card game that encourages addition skills and mathematical critical thinking through strategy. Players try to eliminate their hand of cards by matching either the number or suit of the card on the table. The losing group of players must tally their remaining cards to give points to the winner of each round.

Card Activities

A deck of cards can inspire many activities for elementary school kids, not the least of which is card tricks. Many “magic” card tricks are based more on math principles than sleight-of-hand, which makes them fun and simple to perform if math skills are sharp.

One magic card trick that is easy to master and requires operational math skills is creating “tens.” With face cards and tens removed from the deck, an “audience” member chooses one card from those remaining. The “magician” then lays down the remainder of the cards and pairs them up to create values of ten: ace and nine, two and eight, etc. The one card remaining for the magician is the pair to the audience card to create ten. Therefore, the magician can subtract the value of the remaining card from 10 and “guess” the value of the audience card.

Many operational math skills can be practiced with a deck of cards. Parents can safely check the internet for tutorials and share them with their kids.

Card Sharks

A deck of cards is an easy, portable, fun, and almost unlimited way to encourage math retention and development in elementary school students during the summer. Whether playing card games or demonstrating magic tricks, a card deck fosters non-screen entertainment with family and friends. A deck of cards encourages creativity in kids as well as critical thinking, operational strategy, and math readiness for the new school year.