Card games: improving mental math without really trying

Try this one and see the difference for yourself in the youth’s math skills.

Teach them how to play Rummy. Play a couple of hands among the leaders, have a couple of extra card decks on hand, let them join in and then they’ll play on their own. Have pens and paper handy for them to keep score – or just start them playing for fun.

Our favourite variant for this is Rummy 500, where you add up points at the each of each hand and keep a running total. The winner is the first player to reach 500 points.

Bring out the snacks when they are playing to keep them going. Break out the cards when you’re preparing the a meal. Watch that different youth take turns keeping score.

When they first play, watch how much difficulty they have counting up their points at the end of each hand. Watch and maybe help with tricks like making “tens” (pairing up 6 and 4, 7 and 3, etc.). You will be amazed at the difference after a few hands, and between the start and end of the season if they play regularly.

There are different variants, and we suggest tailoring them to the different sections. That way, as the youth move up, they have to learn the rules of the new group that make it a little more challenging. Read the Rummy 500 rules, and try these variants:

Cub rules:

  • Aces always worth 15 points.
  • No discard required to end your hand and win

Scouts rules:

  • On laid down cards: aces only worth 15 points if in a Queen-King-Ace run
  • On cards left in your hand: aces cost 15 points
  • One ace-two-three or three/four aces: only worth one point
  • No discard required to end your hand and win

Venturer rules:

  • Aces: same as scouts, but to reward the risk, 4 aces are worth 15 points each
  • Discard required to end your hand and win.

The STEM Part:

That M at the end of STEM is for Math. Enough said.


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