Surviving Home School - Try Math Poker

Kim Dixon

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Welcome to the new normal - my least favorite sentiment at the moment which, unfortunately, happens to be the first sentence of every email my son's math teacher sends each week, along with a list of assignments. Yet here I am like many other parents, trying to adjust to the daily grind of making my child do what the teachers expect without the benefit of a familiar classroom and cohorts to giggle with when the teacher's back is turned.

Weeks one and two were brutal until it clicked - do an assignment then play a game, the best motivator I have found to navigate the day. So here's one that worked for us and is helping to strengthen multiplication skills. Play poker math.

Step One: Take a regular deck of cards - Jokers included. Assign a value to each card. My son is in the 4th grade so we are using Ace (1) through 10 as face value points with Jacks (11), Queens (12) and Kings (0). To make things interesting, Jokers are worth 100 points. If you have a middle school child, consider making the values larger to increase the math challenge.

Step Two: Raid the money jar and divide coins equally (as much or as little as you want). We typically use 8 quarters, 10 dimes, and 20 nickels each.

Step Three: Shuffle the deck and then pass out all the cards (much like you would for a game of War).

Now you are ready to play.

Each player adds 50 cents to the pot before drawing two cards. Players look at only their cards and quickly multiply them to determine the product. The larger number the better. For instance a King and a 10 would be worth 0 points (10 x 0 = 0). A 6 and a Queen would be worth 72 points (6 x 12 = 72). In regular War, the highest number would win; however, with the element of betting, another skill worth learning emerges. Can you bluff to win even if the card product is crap?

Once players have determined their product value, then the betting begins. The first player (usually kids always want this honor), decides to up the bet or pass. Depending on this action, the second player either matches the bet or folds. Having a good poker face can ensure the win.

Player One: 5 x 3 = 15

Player Two: King x 10 = 0

Player One: not sure if 15 will win, adds a dime to the pot.

Player Two: knowing 0 won't win can either fold or add the dime.

If Player Two folds, the hand is over and Player One wins 60 cents. But, if Player Two has a good poker face, she can add a dime and raise a dollar (the pot is now \$1.70). Now the burden shifts back to Player One. Will 15 win? Should he match the dollar raise or fold?

If Player One matches the raise (\$2.70), when the cards are revealed, 15 has the win and that player wins the pot. However, if Player One doesn't raise and folds, Player Two will win with a product value of 0 and walks away with \$1.70.

For now my poker face has made me a tad bit wealthier, but he's catching on quickly to bluffing. Let's just say I'm taking a beating in Exploding Kittens - another game to relieve the homeschooling blues.