Integer War

I cannot say this was my original idea – this came from Max Ray at the Math Forum. It was such a great idea, though, so I have to share it. 🙂

2013-09-27 09.15.41

My Math 1 students are working on adding and subtracting integers. I wanted them to do some additional practice but I felt if I had them do a worksheet that they wouldn’t take the practice seriously. So, we had Integer War. Divide a deck of cards (minus the jokers) between two students. Red cards are negative numbers and black cards are positive numbers. Aces are worth 1 and face cards (jack, queen, king) are worth 10. Each student lays down two cards. They add their cards and the highest value is the winner. At Max’s suggestion, I created a recording sheet and had students do 13 hands (using all of their cards).


Max’s original suggestion was to use Integer War for addition and multiplication. Since we were working on addition and subtraction, I had my students do Integer War first adding the cards. If students finished before the end of the period, I also had a subtracting record sheet that I had them complete. With subtraction, there is the added element of strategy – how are you going to do the subtraction to end up with the largest value?


2013-09-27 09.15.07Integer War took about 10-15 minutes for 13 hands. The nice thing was that students were engaged. In both of my classes, all students were working. They really did a nice job. I was pleased with how it went and I think my students found the practice to be fun and worthwhile.Some students just did the subtraction as the cards came up, others wondered how they had to subtract them. So I asked them how they think they could end up with the largest possible value and left it at that.

Addendum: Here is the record sheet that I used: Integer War Record Sheet

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4 thoughts on “Integer War”

  1. Mike says:

    Hey this is great. DO you have the record sheets available?

    1. Lisa says:

      I do. I will post them here in a moment.

  2. Max Ray (@maxmathforum) says:

    I love the twist of adding the strategy component to subtraction, really making them think about how order matters in subtraction — cool!

    We used to play this in Ms. Allen’s 5th grade math class, so I certainly can’t take credit. It’s also related to some Everyday Math games we’ve been having kids use in their math centers.

  3. Amy Gruen says:

    I passed this on to our interventions teacher who is working on addition/subtraction of integers all day every day. He was happy to have another alternate way to practice. Thanks for posting!

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