July 20, 2014

42 Round 3

This is a simple addition game called 42. It’s great for younger and older kids, and again, offers opportunity to dig deeper and think about adding and subtracting in a fun way! While it seems very simple at first, it actually gives opportunity for rather complex thinking and many mental math calculations.

I recently shared some of these math games with a neighbor, and she said she couldn’t really figure out one of the games just by reading the directions on my blog. It got me thinking that I should probably just make videos of me teaching/playing them. Personally, even I don’t like reading through instructions to learn a game and would much rather have someone just show me. So I’ll try to go back and add videos for the last three games I posted (in addition to making videos for the future games). Here’s the first!

Some students might find it a little frustrating, while others may skip along in the game with no strategy and still have fun. Again, there is rich opportunity for discussion here, so watch your child while she is playing and try to see what she is thinking and help her grow from there! Strategy discussion ideas are offered at the end, as usual!




Math Skills Covered: Addition
Materials: Deck of Cards
# of Players: 

Prepare the deck: Remove any Joker cards.

Special card values:
Ace = 1
Face cards (King, Queen and Jacks) = 10
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 = their face value

OBJECT OF THE GAME: Be the first to have your cards add up to exactly 42!


  1. Deal out 5 cards per person. Leave the rest in a stack facing down as a draw pile.
  2. Players can leave their cards facing up. Players must have 5 cards, and 5 cards only, at all times. Each player looks at their cards and adds up the points in their hand. 42 - set up the game
    In this hand, I have 5 + 6 + 6 + 7 + 10 = 34 points.
    My opponent has 10 + 9 + 1 + 5 + 1 = 26 points.
  3. The player to the left of the dealer starts. He takes one card from the top of the middle pile, and turns it over. He decides whether or not he wants to keep it. If he wants to keep it, he must swap it with and discard one of his other cards. If he does not want it, he can simply put it in the discard pile. Either way, he can only have 5 cards at one time.
    42 Round 1
    Since I want to increase my score to get closer to 42, I decide I want this card, which is worth 10 points. I swap out my lowest card, 5, for the Jack. Net gain +5. Current total score = 39. I still need 3 more points to get to 42.
  4. The next player does the same thing, selecting from the stack of cards. Players may not take cards from the discard pile.
    42 Round 2
    Now it’s my turn again. I draw a 6. Since I need to add three to my score, and my lowest card is already a 6, then drawing a 6 does not help me at all. I place it face down in the discard pile on the right. My turn is over.
  5. Once a player has 5 cards that add up to 42, they win!
    42 Round 3
    I draw a queen, which is worth 10 points. Is it worth 3 more than any of my current cards? Ah-hah! It is 3 more than the 7! Perfect! I will swap out my 7, put in my queen, and declare, “42!”42 Winning Cards



Q: Can I rearrange my cards so it’s easier for me to add?
A: Yes.

Q: Can I swap cards with another player?
A: No.

Q: Can I take a card from the discard pile?
A: No.

Q: Can I use just four of the cards in my hand?
A: No.



Once everyone is familiar with the game, players don’t have to show their hand.

To make it more challenging, change the rule so that you can take the top card from the discard pile. This will force players to pay attention to the person playing before them and think more. If the cards are all showing, it will add a different element to the game as well.

Discuss Strategies:

See more fun math games in my series on Fun Math Games for Children!

2 responses to “Math Game: “42””

  1. Marilyn says:

    Your explanations are very clear. No problem understanding how to play the games. Love the games.

    • joellen says:

      Thanks, Marilyn! I was beginning to worry no one was really interested in these haha =) But I think they’re such a valuable educational tool that I still wanted to share :).