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Why did I decide to do a micro-presentation about an ordinary pack of playing cards at the Never Stop Learning Hub Teach Meet last week? (which, if you missed it, was an amazing event!)  Well, similar to other educators, my motivation was a student.

A few years back, I had a student who was adamant that they could not multiply numbers (well, they said “I’m rubbish at Maths and I’m no good at timesing” which I occasionally hear…when did saying “times” become the norm? I digress…).  I wanted to find a way to help without the student feeling singled out AND I didn’t have loads of money to spend on resources.  An ordinary pack of playing cards was the solution.

An ordinary pack of playing cards

An ordinary pack of playing cards

I instructed the student to remove the aces, picture cards and all of the number tens.  Then we sat down in Maths Club and started practising…

  • 5 Hearts x 3 Clubs = 15
  • 9 Spades x 2 Diamonds = 18
  • 6 Clubs x 4 Spades = 24

…until we got through the pack of cards.  When we got to the end, we shuffled the cards and started again.  Not knowing what combination of cards would come up next, made both of us concentrate.  As we got through the pack of cards a third or fourth time, there was an immediate improvement; it worked!



Ever since that afternoon, I use playing cards with students who really struggle with multiplication (most households have a pack).  I tell them to practice at home with their families, in front of the TV with their friends or on their own.

Playing cards in lessons

At the Never Stop Learning Hub Teach Meet I made a quick demonstration of what I’ve discussed above, with some rather large playing cards and the help of two handsome assistants (the inspirational @MrOCallaghanEdu and the motivational @ActionJackson – thank you gents!).

As this was not a Maths event, I had to make sure that I had an Ace up my sleeve, some way of showing that playing cards could be used for more than arithmetic and probability in Mathematics lessons.  I showed the audience how they could use playing cards in MFL lessons…

…so, I say to the audience “…get the students to pick a card, for example, the 9 of Hearts and tell your student to say what they see or get them to make a sentence that includes that item.”  Easy!  It doesn’t take long to set up a grid like the one above, it’s just a matter of finding the right images.  The beauty of this is that you can use this grid across different subjects and key stages (e.g. Science, Psychology, Geography, Physical Education and so on)

So that was it.  That was my 5 minutes of fame…pow! amazing!

Don’t reinvent the wheel…Ideas for using playing cards in lessons

So instead of wasting time making lots of resources, adapt my blank grid, use one of the resources below or just search the internet.  Don’t bother buying new cards, just collect any old packs that you find; even if one or two cards are missing…it really doesn’t matter.

I hope you enjoy the resources and consider trying playing cards in your lessons this week.  If you find or make any resources for playing cards in lessons (any subject), please share this with me, via the comments below or on Twitter #PlayingCardLesson.  Thanks for reading.