Basic Addition Game – Six Up

by Gareth Brown on 2012/03/02


This fun learning game can be played in pairs with two students or between a student and an adult. It’s a basic addition and counting on game using playing cards for primary school and elementary school students. I hope you and your kids enjoy playing it and feel free to modify it to suit your needs.


Learning Outcomes:

  • Basic addition
  • Counting on


Required Material:

  • A deck of cards
  • Counters


Aim of the game:

  • To collect as many counters as you can by placing cards in a row that equal the target number set by the players at the start of the game.


How to play:

  1. This game is for 2 players so put the students into pairs if you have a whole class.
  2. Take all of the jacks, queens, kings and jokers out of the deck of cards. You will only need ace to ten.
  3. Using the cards you have taken out place six of them face down in a rectangular grid 2 by 3. This forms the playing area.

    Addition Game - Six Up

    Arrange discarded cards like this.

  4. Decide which number you are going to aim for, you can choose between 3 and 20 but the numbers between 5 to 18 work the best. If you pick 20 for example you will have less card combinations to use that can equal 20.
  5. Shuffle the cards and deal five to each player. The remaining cards are placed in a pile face down to be used as the pick-up pile.
  6. Each player can place one card on the grid at a time, cards need to be placed face up. Cards can be placed on top of other cards but not the same as the card being placed. (So a 6 cannot be placed on top of another 6, an 8 cannot be placed on another 8 etc…)
  7. When a card is placed on the grid the player then picks up another card from the pick-up pile so that they always have five cards in their hand.
  8. To equal the target number players need to place a card that creates an addition sum that equals that number. (If the target number is 15 and a player places a 5 next to a 7 and a 3 then 5 + 7 + 3 = 15) Players can reach the target number by placing two cards in a row that equal the number or three cards in a row. However if there are three cards in a row and only two of them added together equal the target number horizontally then this does not count as all three cards need to be added together.
    Basic addition Game example

    Three numbers in a row. (5 + 7 + 3 = 15)

    Addition game example

    Two cards in a row. (6 + 9 = 15)

  9. When a player reaches a target number they score one point and take a counter.
  10. If a player places a card that equals the target number using three cards in a row horizontally and two cards in a row vertically then they score two points.
  11. The game ends when the players reach a certain time or point limit, or no more cards can be picked up. The winner is the player with the most counters at the end of the game.



This game can be modified and the playing area made bigger or in different shapes. You might like to start with the cards in a 2 x 2 formation instead of a 2 x 3. Once the students become more skilled in the game you could introduce 2 x 8, 3 x 4, 3 x 5 or anything you would like. The children will take a bit of time working out the strategies they can use and will benefit from you playing with them and modeling some of the possible strategies you would use.


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