This is a reprint of one of my posts on ATUE. The original post can be found here .

Recently in my 5th grade resource class we were going to play Multiplication War (like normal card War, but the first student to multiply the two numbers together and say the correct answer gets the cards)…. but then one of my students asked what “those things” were… Yes, she referred to a deck of cards as “those things”…. *shock*, *awe*, *slightly agape mouth*….

At that point, I did what any good teacher would do… I threw the written lesson plans out the window and we “discovered” what a deck of cards was. This was an interesting discovery lesson because I wouldn’t let the kids touch the deck. I know that sounds weird, but the answers to the questions would have been *too* easy had I let them touch them. Sooooo….. we worked on our math talk, and our group talk, and how to use our words. What occurred was an AWESOME discussion!

First, I spread the cards out and asked them what they observed from the deck. They noticed two colors but didn’t see the 4 suits at first. Before I let the discussion get too far, I had them estimate how many cards were in the deck.

98….24….64….52….24….64….16….

Okay so ONE of my SEVEN kiddos has an idea of what is in a deck….

After the digression, someone noticed their were four different “pictures” on the cards. I asked him to elaborate and he was able to talk about the diamonds and the hearts but didn’t know what the name for spades or clubs was. We had a quick discussion about the vocabulary. Then I asked if they thought each suit had the same number of cards. Most of the kids said no… a few said yes. So, we split them into the four suits.

Before we were able to talk about how many cards were in each suit, we looked at one suit specifically. I laid out all of the clubs so that the students could start making observations about what made up one suit.

One of the students said the cards looked the same from both sides of the table. Others disagreed. So…. I took out the phone.

<— This is what the card looked like “right side up”

<—This is what the card looked like “wrong side up”

Nope… they weren’t convinced. Apparently they thought I used some sort of phone trickery to make the pictures looks the same….. So…… enter, the HAND MODEL!

We picked a different card and looked at it from both vies again. J’s thumb was up for the first view and down for the second view. This time the kiddos were convinced that the cards were symmetrical on either side. We did have a conversation about how that ONLY worked for EVEN numbers and the FACE cards, I just forgot to take a pic of the ODD card (oops!)

Next someone noticed that “the numbers could be put in order” – YES, NOW we are getting there! They were okay with placing 2 through 10 but weren’t sure what to do with the face cards.

So, they made an educated guess – the overwhelming response was alphabetically! So I placed the cards how they suggested.

After some more discussion we talked about “the royal family” and what the order of hierarchy should be. They finally decided that it should be Jack, Queen, and King. Ace was still confusing so I told them that Ace could be a 1 or a 13 depending on what game you were playing.

Then I revisited whether all 4 suits had the same number of cards. Still disagreement…. so, we laid out two of the suits. Someone actually gasped “they’re the same!”. It was getting really hard not to laugh at them π

After we made the connection that two of the sets were the same, I sorted all 4 suits and asked them to think about how many cards were in ONE suit. They reached for the set to lay them back out and I stopped them. I had them try to visualize what cards we had laying on the table before. Within a few moments we were able to decipher that there were 13 cards in one suit (2 through 10 and four face cards) from memory!

Then I tasked them with figuring out how many cards were included in ALL four suits. After a few moments, I had the students tell me how many they thought were in a deck now….

26….52….52….52….52….52….52….

Some kiddos used repeated addition…. others multiplied…. one was still stuck on just looking at two suits….

Regardless, it would have been VERY easy to tell the kids that a deck of cards had four suits, and those four suits totaled 52 cards. Instead, we took the time discover what the deck of cards entailed. While some would say that this was a wasted 30 minute resource time, I would disagree. Students without prior background knowledge need the chance to form their own scaffolding. This 30 minutes gave the kiddos a chance to interact with the cards, make observations, and problem solve. Imagine how much better they will do with probability KNOWING the make-up of a deck!

Now that they understand cards, we can play Multiplication War another day π

Donna Groves

Great Job! Not a waste of time at all. I call it laying the foundation for probability! π

Sharee

What kind of symmetry are you referring to? I see lots of symmetry in different cards- vertical, horizontal, rotational, etc. And the diamond suit will have the most because the shape itself has rotational symmetry.