July 28, 2014

99 Math Game

This is probably the easiest, and arguably the most fun game of the bunch. This is always the first math game I teach, because students pick up on it very quickly and have a lot of fun. It leaves a good taste in their mouth for math games!

I should have introduced it first. Sorry. I started with my own personal favorite =P.

It’s mostly addition, doesn’t require too much strategy, and is closer to a normal “just for fun” card game than any of the other games. This is nice when you just want a low-key game! This is also the math game I most often see my kids choose to play on rainy day recesses or Choice Time. It just requires one deck of cards and a little bit of math know-how.

The hardest thing about this game is probably learning the special card values. I would recommend printing up the printable/instructions, then you can just set it out and refer to it whenever needed. Read on to learn this easy and fun game!




Math Concepts Covered: Addition and subtraction
Materials: A deck of cards
# of Players: 2+
Grades: 1-5

Prepare the deck: Remove any Jokers.

Special card values:
Ace = 1 or 11. You decide when you play it.
3 = “Pass.” Score stays the same.
4 = “Reverse.” This reverses the direction of play. Score stays the same.
9 = “Automatic 99.” The score becomes 99, no matter when it is played.
10 = “Subtract ten” points (-10).
All picture/face cards = add 10 points
All other cards (2, 5, 6, 7, 8) = their face value.

OBJECT OF THE GAME: Force any other player to play a card that will make the cumulative group score go over 99 points. Each player wants to avoid playing a card that will push the score over 99 (and end the game).


  1. The dealer gives each player three cards. (Don’t let others see your cards).
  2. The first player chooses any card from her hand and plays it, starting the group score. For example, if she wants to play a 6, she should put down her card (face-up) and state, “6.” This way, everyone else has the new score locked in their heads (it’s very easy to forget, so pay attention!). Then this player picks up a replacement card.
  3. The next player plays a queen, which is worth 10 points, and says the new score, “16,” then draws a replacement card.  Then the next person plays an ace and states the score: “27.”  (Remember aces can be one or 11 points, so the score could have been 17 or 27).
  4. The next player plays a nine, and gleefully cries out, “AUTOMATIC 99!” at which point the score jumps straight to 99! This makes an interesting situation for the next players! The next player needs either a 3 (“pass”), a 4 (“reverse”), another 9 (“automatic 99”), or a 10 (subtract 10) in his hand, otherwise the score will go past 99 and the round will end.
  5. Luckily, the next player has a 10 (subtract 10), and plays it, bringing the total score back down to 89.
  6. The next player plays a 7, so the score is 96.
  7. The next player plays a 3, which keeps the score at 96. Then a player plays a 2, bringing the score up to 98! The next player has a 4, which reverses the direction of play (while keeping the score at 98). Finally, the next player does not have a 3, 4, 9 or 10, which makes the score go past 99, and the round comes to an end.



Q: If I forget to pick up a replacement card, can I get it later when I remember so I still have a total of 3 cards in my hand?
A: Yes.

Q: Why do I have to say the score every time I play my card?
A: Because the next person needs to know the new total! Don’t expect them to do your math for you. Trust me, the game gets really confusing if people don’t say the total score out loud each time!!



To make it more challenging, you can make a rule about replacement cards: Players must remember to immediately pick up a replacement card from the deck before the next player starts his turn, or she must play with only two cards! Obviously, the game is harder for the player who has fewer cards in their hand.

Discuss Strategies:

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

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