War 2.0 – A multiplying card game with choice

I’m sure you’ve played the card game of war. It’s a classic: two opposing players split the deck, top card flips over for each player and high card wins.

Maybe you’ve even modified the game, like many elementary teachers do to practice multiplying skills.

  • players flip over two cards each.
  • multiply those cards.
  • highest product is the winner.

The problem with this game? No choice. No strategy.

If you’ve seen Dan Finkel’s Ted talk: 5 Ways to Share Math With Kids or you’ve played the games from Dan’s company Math For Love or maybe you listened to Dan on our podcast: Episode 11 – Play Is The Engine of Learning then you know using games in math class can be quite powerful.

In episode 11 Dan shares a tip that is at the center of game design: players must have choice.

This game, War 2.0 – A multiplying card game with choice asks players to make important choices to increase the likelihood of winning.


  • players take 3 cards from a pile face down.
  • choose any 2 cards to flip over. Multiply them.
  • highest product wins (this is where the original game ends the round).
  • players can choose to flip over the third card if they think they can earn a higher product. BUT they must flip one of their original cards down first.
  • all players must decide if they are using their third card or not before anyone flips the third card.
  • winner is the player with the highest product. Mark a win on a tally for that player.


  • add or subtract instead of multiplying.
  • fractions (use more cards).

Sparking curiosity and fuelling sense making are so important when designing lessons and activities for our students to learn new ideas and we often overlook how our students will practice those ideas.

On the podcast I co-host with Kyle Pearce we often encourage teachers to embed purposeful practice into those carefully designed lessons.

What better way to purposefully practice concepts than with a game.

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2 thoughts on “War 2.0 – A multiplying card game with choice

  1. There’s a bit of probability in this version, but it’s still mostly random chance. You can get even more strategy in your number practice by playing Math War Trumps:

    Players draw two cards from their deck and look at them. The player whose turn it is calls the trump: which math operation to do, and whether the low or high answer takes the trick. Then all players reveal their cards and calculate.

    For even more strategy, let players draw three cards and choose which two to reveal. Then they draw two more to replenish their hand for the next turn.

  2. Good comment from Denise, who, of course, knows her games. Even regular war can be improved by draw three, choose low or high. You can take turns choosing, or the loser of the last trick chooses. Plus, keep the unused cards. Adds even more strategy/choices for when to get rid of the awful middle cards. Plus, pays to pay attention to what your opponent is playing, to sneak an extra trick when they have a bad hand.

    Choose two out of three to multiply for largest isn’t a real choice, because there is a 100% right play to get the most.

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