The Make 10 Game: A Fun, Easy to Play Card Game for Kids

The Make 10 Game is a simple math card game that helps kids learn the number pairs (also known as number bonds) that add up to ten.

In this article, you’ll learn:

What Does It Mean to “Make Ten”?

Making ten is one of the most important math skills your child will learn in 1st grade and 2nd grade.

The “make ten” strategy simply means knowing all the pairs of numbers that add up to ten: 

The make 10 facts: 1+9, 2+8, 3+7 and so on.

You’ll notice that some of these, like 1-9 and 9-1 are just the same fact flipped around. This seems obvious to you, but your child may not realize this.

  • You can help your child understand this by showing the image above and asking, “What do you notice? What pattern do you see?”
  • Another technique is to have your child circle the “twins” each in a different color, then telling you what they discovered.
  • Some kids will benefit most with hands-on work with objects, to see that 4+5 and 5+4 are really just the same thing flipped around.

Once your child understands this, these 9 facts become just 5 facts–a pretty easy task even for young kids.

You don’t need flash cards or practice tests to learn this skill. All you need is a deck of cards and this game.

Learning Addition Facts

Addition facts are the basic building blocks of addition.

Ideally, your child will know all of their addition math facts from 0+0 to 10+10 by second grade–automatically, without counting.

That’s a HUGE challenge for a little kid. There are a total of 121 addition facts altogether!

But when addition facts are broken down into bite-sized bits in a strategy-based approach, it becomes much more manageable.

The make ten facts are a small but very important part of these.

The math card game will help your child master these facts quickly as they play.

the Make 10 Strategy for Adding

The make ten facts are an essential skill for older kids as well. Tens are called “friendly numbers”, and are used all the time in mental math skills with larger numbers.

Let’s look at some examples with just one fact: 8+2=10.

How could your child’s knowledge of that fact help with these problems?

  • 28+2
  • 12+8
  • 80+20
  • 12+18
  • 2,000+8,000

How could it help with these problems?

  • 8+3
  • 12+9
  • 80+40

The make ten facts are also a natural lead-in to equations with missing addends:

  • 2 + _ = 10
  • _ + 4 = 10

Problems with a missing number are notoriously hard for kids, but they make sense in the context of learning the facts that add to ten.

The Make 10 Game isn’t just for little kids. When I see an older child who doesn’t know these facts, I teach them this game to build that skill.

How to Use this game

This is one of the few solitaire math games I’ve found that is easy enough for young kids to play on their own. It’s a great game for early finishers or independent learning.

Two people could also play as a collaborative game, with partners taking turns.

What I love about this game is that kids learn as they play. A child can start out not knowing any of these facts, play a quick game, and be rattling off tens pairs in no time.

A teacher or homeschooler could easily slip this fun game into lesson plans, math centers, intervention activities, or small groups.

No play mats, game board or special number cards are needed. You don’t even have to remove the face cards from the deck. Just pull out some cards and play!

How to Play the make 10 Game

YOU’LL NEED a regular deck of playing cards. (Make it easy on yourself and leave in the face cards. Jacks, queens, kings, and even jokers are fine.)

PLAYERS: 1 or 2 players. 

1. Shuffle your cards.

2. Take ten cards from the top of the deck, and arrange them face up in two rows, like this.

How to set up the Make 10 Game with playing cards.

3. Remove any cards that are worth ten. These are the number ten, jacks, queens, kings, and any jokers. Put these cards to the side.

4. Now look for pairs of numbers that add up to ten: 6+4, 5+5, 9+A, and so on. (Aces are worth one.) Say the number pair out loud. Take the cards and put them to the side.

NOTE: Only remove one or two cards that add to 10. Sometimes you’ll find 3 or more cards that add up to ten, but don’t take these.

An example of the Make 10 Game during play.

5. Once you’ve taken some cards out, there will be some gaps. Fill in the gaps with new cards so you have another set of ten cards.

6. Continue taking all the different combinations of cards that add to ten, and filling in gaps as needed.

7. The goal is to get rid of all your cards.

NOTE: If your child does the math right, and if you started with a full deck of cards, they should be able to clear the table almost every time!

How To Play With Two People 

This game works great as a solitaire game, but most kids between 5-8 years old prefer playing with a partner (who could be you).

Because the players take turns, it works well with players of different levels–including parents and children, or older and younger siblings.

Here is how to play as a two-player game:

1. Lay out the cards. One player finds all the tens they can, then fills in the gaps.

2. The next player takes their turn. They look for tens, remove the cards, and fill in the gaps.

3. Take turns playing until all the cards are gone.

How to Get the Most from the Make 10 Game

COLLABORATION VS COMPETITION?

I love collaborative game, especially in math. Math itself can feel like a competition, with the faster kids being rewarded and the slower kids thinking they’re bad at math.

I try to offset this as much as possible with either collaborative games, or with games that allow players of any level to win (for example, the first to reach the finish line, or the player who rolled the largest number).

The Make 10 Game works really well as a collaborative game–where both players are working together toward the same goal.

Explain that the goal of the game is to find ALL of the tens, so there are no cards left over at the end of the game.

When One Kid CAlls Out All the Answers

For very enthusiastic kids, you may need to set some ground rules around “helping” during the other player’s turn.

I tell kids, “No hints or saying numbers unless it’s your turn–or if the other player asks you for help.”

PARENTS PLAYING WITH KIDS

When you’re playing with your child, you’ll likely see the number pairs much more quickly than they do. But don’t just snatch up your cards and be done with your turn…

Instead, think of YOUR turn as a way to sneak in more learning for your child.

Go nice and slow, and say the pairs out loud as you find them.

Say, “Does 5 have a pair? No. Does 4 have a pair? Hmmm…” Pretend to be searching, to

give your child plenty of time to spot it.

Your child will want to shout out the answer, but don’t let them! Make a big deal about wanting to find it yourself. Kids love knowing something you don’t.

When it’s your child’s turn, if you see a pair they missed you can drop little clues like:

  • Are you sure that’s all of them?
  • Are you done with your turn? Please tell me you’re done with your turn! (When playing the competitive version; see below.)
  • I see a pair…

Ok, Maybe Just a Little Competition…

If your child REALLY loves competition, play until the end, then have each player count their cards.

The player with the most cards wins.

More Make 10 resources

I’m sure you’ve seen it happen: your child masters a whole bunch of facts perfectly, then days later can’t remember them at all.

It’s actually a perfectly normal part of learning. For a skill to go from short-term memory to long-term memory and mastery, your child needs a variety of experiences over time with the same skill.

With enough practice and play in different contexts, those addition skills become automatic.

Here is the resource I personally use to help my students master the skill of making ten:

Make Ten: Hands-On Activities, Art, and Games

Make Ten: Hands-On Activities, Art, and Games (printable digital book with fun math practice)

This super-fun printable activity set has everything you need to help your child master and internalize the facts that add to 10.

Each page is packed with engaging activities: hands-on explorations, games, puzzles, art, magic, and more!

>> Learn more

Clumsy Thief Junior

Outside of the Make Ten bundle above, I really haven’t found much out there that focuses only on the make ten addition facts. But one other resource I do use is the card game Clumsy Thief Junior.

Clumsy Thief is a cartoony card game that involves “stealing” number cards from each other, which of course kids love!

NOTE: For kids age 8 and up, I would skip the junior version and go straight to the original Clumsy Thief, or Clumsy Thief Candy Store. These have addition facts to 20 and to 100, and seem to hold kids’ interest a lot longer.

You can read my review of Clumsy Thief here.

To sum up: Building addition fluency with the make 10 facts is an important skill for your first grader or older child.

The Make 10 game takes just a few minutes to play, and is a fun way to teach your child an addition skill they’ll use for many years to come.

Kelli Pearson
Author: Kelli Pearson

Kelli Pearson at Artful Math brings creative math experiences to kids who are underwhelmed by worksheets and tired of feeling like they’re bad at math. With a playful spirit and down-to-earth BFF vibe, she helps kids tap into their powerful brilliant selves and learn math with joy.

2 Comments

  1. Monty Harder says:

    Is there a rule for when no 10s/face cards are in the 10-card layout, and no pairs can be made? Suppose you have four aces, four eights, and two threes. Do you add an 11th, 12th, etc. card until you get a match?

    1. Great question! Yes, this is exactly what I do. When there’s not a match that makes ten, add a card at a time until your child can play again.

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