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Five Numbers Game is an original card game that makes math fun. I thought of it a number of years ago and have played it countless times with children of various ages and they have all loved it. The game can be played alone or with two or more people and is fun for all ages, starting at the point where kids know basic mathematics.

To Start: From a standard deck of cards, remove the face cards (jacks, queens, kings and jokers) as the game needs only aces through tens. Ace = 1 in this game. Deal each player five cards. No other cards will be used. Before looking at the cards, somebody picks a target- a number from 50 to 99.

To Play: Use each card once and any combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to get as close as possible to the target. Pencil and paper are not allowed!

Example: Someone chooses a target of 73. Player A is dealt...


He or she may think of: 8 + 2 = 10; 10 x 7 = 70; 70 - 4 + 6 = 72. There are other possibilities- including a way to get 73- which is part of the fun and mental exercise. Limit the game to one, two or three minutes, depending on the skill level of those playing. (This doesn't mean having to use a timer or stopwatch, I've always played with a general sense of when enough time has passed.) After this, each player demonstrates his or her calculation to the others.

Remember, each card must be used and only one time.

To Score: In the above example, the player gets 1 point since the calculation of 72 is one off the target of 73. Higher or lower than the target does not make a difference. Getting the target exactly scores a bonus of -1 instead of 0 points. Play a set of five games. The winner is the player with the least points after the set of games; -5 is the best possible total. (Youngsters not yet up to speed with negative numbers can score a zero for hitting the target exactly.)

Tie-Breaker: If two players end the set of games with, say, seven points each, then the one with the lowest score in any round is the winner. If they are still tied, then the one with the best score from any two rounds is the winner. If still tied (I haven't experienced this, but figure I should include the possibility), the two can play single games till one gets a better score.

Penalty: If a player makes a mistake in his calculation, he automatically gets 5 points on top of the worst score by any other player.

A solo player can add his or her points from a set of games and play against that personal score.

To make sure the five dealt cards are varied and helpful, a player can exchange some if he got: two 1s, two 10s, or three numbers under 4. This must be done before the target is announced.


   Rather than deal each player five cards, lay five cards face up on the table for everyone to use. Either all players should use pen and paper or all should not. (If only some write their calculations, then in a case where the first player shows a calculation on paper that scores well, the second player who did not write it can simply say the same thing as the first if he does not have as good a mental calculation.)

   If all choose to not use pen and paper, then it's best to play without a time-limit. Instead, a round ends when one player "calls it" by announcing that she is close to the target. She then verbally reveals her calculation and the other players get 5 points on top of her score. To prevent a player from calling it after one second and revealing a calculation that is way off the target, a calculation must be no more than 5 off the target. If the one who calls it makes a mistake- in the calculation or being more than 5 off the target- then another player must call it and the one who made a mistake is penalized with 10 points on top of the caller's score.


Choose one or more of the following to make the game even more fun.

   A) Shorten the time-limit and use a timer to be exact.

   B) Lightning bonus; score an extra -1 when a player gets the target within 3-5 seconds.

   C) Use exponents and square roots. In our example, the player can go: 8 to the power of 2 = 64; 64 + 7 = 71; 71 + 6 - 4 = 73! To do a square root, one must use the number 2, either the card 2 or other cards forming 2 (as in, card6 minus card4 = 2). Then with the number 9, or 16, or 25, or other, a player can go: the square root (2) of 25 = 5...

Let me know what you think and your comments, especially new rules and variations, may be posted here. Email me at (Sorry, it's not clickable in order to reduce spam.)

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Have fun!

- Robbie

© Five Numbers Game

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