Fireplace flux

Light your children's pre-algebra skills on fire with this novel card game.

By GreatSchools Staff

With fewer hours in the day and a lot less sunshine, winter can be a time when accomplishing even ordinary tasks seems like a challenge. But that doesn't mean parents have to forgo teaching altogether. To set your childrens' math wheels spinning, GreatSchools presents these fun but unusual activities with a seasonal theme.

What you'll need

• A deck of cards
• Writing pad for keeping score
• A printed fireplace board

Make it happen

Objective: Accumulate the most points by making the product of the numbers in the chimney equal the product of the numbers in the fireplace. (The product is the answer to a multiplication problem).

Number of players: 2

Directions:

1. To decide who goes first, each person takes a card, and the one with the highest card starts.

2. Deal four cards face-up, arranging them in the shape of a chimney. The two bottom cards should be right next to each other, with the third card centered above them and the fourth card directly above the third.

3. Multiply the value of the bottom two cards in the "fireplace" to get your target value.

4. Next multiply the value of the two cards of the "chimney."

5. Use multiplication, division, subtraction, and addition to make the chimney's value match the value in the fireplace. (No extra cards are needed. This part's just pure mental math.)

The options are many, but here are a few possible solutions:

20 x 3 = 60, 60 + 3 = 63
20 + 20 = 40, 20 + 40 = 60, 60 + 3 = 63
40 + 20 = 60, 60 + 3 = 63

6. Now it's player two's turn.

7. Sometimes the number in the fireplace will be more than the number in the chimney. In that case, the game continues normally but with more division and subtraction.

8. Players can continue as long as they like.

Card values:

• All number cards are worth face value.
• Jacks are worth 11 points.
• Queens have no value in the game, but give 5 extra points when scoring.
• Kings have no value in the game, but give 10 extra points when scoring.

Scoring:

• Each successful hand is worth 10 points.
• If a queen or king appear in the fireplace/chimney, those points are added to the score. For example, if one queen and one king appear in the same hand, the player earns the 10 "normal" points plus 10 extra from the king and 5 extra from the queen for a total of 25.
• Because a queen and king have no value during the game (only in scoring), a new card from the deck is placed directly over it and play continues.