Shape card games

In these games, children practice naming shapes, recognizing shape attributes, and recognizing written numerals. They also practice several executive function skills: shifting rules, keeping track (working memory), and self-regulation. The 60 cards in the shape card deck have numerals 1 to 10 and one of six shapes (circle, triangle, square, rhombus, rectangle, and hexagon). There are also 4 wild cards with all shapes printed on them. The beginning version of the game starts with laying out 6 to 8 cards and asking children to find two cards that match on number. Once children are comfortable with that rule, the teacher switches and asks children to match on shape. Then children can play a few different card games: Snap (sometimes called Snapjack), Crazy Shapes (like Crazy Eights and Uno), and Go Fish.

In Snap, the whole deck is dealt out evenly to each player. Players take turns turning over their top card and placing it face-up in a central pile. If two cards placed consecutively on the pile match by shape or number, the first player to shout SNAP and place their hand on top of the central pile takes the pile of cards and adds them to the bottom of their stack.

In Crazy Shapes, each player is dealt 3 to 5 cards and has to match the card in the discard pile on shape or number. If no match is possible, players draw from the deck until they can make a match. The game ends when the first player has no cards left.

In Go Fish, children choose whether they are all fishing for numbers or for shapes. Each player gets 5 cards and matches the pairs they can. Then players take turns asking each other for a card they need to make a pair with a card that is already in their hand. If not, they “go fish” by choosing a card from the deck (or card pool). The game ends either when a player is out of cards or when no more matches can be made.


About the Math

How to Play

Formative Assessment: Preschool Math Look Fors


Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean
Pete the Cat is fun and loveable. At 8am, Pete puts on his favorite shirt with 4 groovy buttons. His buttons inspire him to sing, “My button, my buttons, my four groovy buttons, my buttons, my buttons, my four groovy buttons.” But as he goes about his day, one-by-one his buttons pop off his shirt. Does Pete cry? No, he keeps going and keeps singing his song. This book has lot of fun math in it as Pete counts down his buttons from 4 to 0. The song he sings repeats in a predictable way (a pattern) as the number of buttons goes down by one each time. The illustrator includes the subtraction equation (such as, 4 – 1 = 3) as each button pops off. You can show the children the equation and explain that they will learn to write mathematical equations like that in kindergarten.

Children can draw their own shirt pictures and glue dots on them for buttons. Then they can write on them the number of buttons they have. For example, “I have 5 buttons on my blue shirt. If I lose one, I’ll have 4!” 

The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns
In this book, a triangle explores all the different things he can make as a triangle—a sailboat, a roof, a piece of pie. But he decides he is bored with being a triangle and goes to the shape shifter to get another side and become a quadrilateral! He explores all the things he can be as a square—a computer screen, a picture frame, a game square. Again, he gets bored and goes to the shape shifter to get another side. This continues until the shape is almost round and rolls away from all his friends. In the end, he decides he wants to go back to being himself, a triangle. When reading this book, have fun with children exploring all the different shapes but don’t worry about them remembering the names for all these shapes. Just use the terms naturally as they arise and the children will pick up some of the words the same way they build the rest of their vocabulary.

Art extensions. Have children focus on one shape with different number of sides at the art table. You can put out straight edges (such as rulers) and tracing shapes to help them get started. One day have them focus on triangles—making 3-sided shapes of all different sizes and length of sides. They can create sailboats, buildings, ladders, or anything they can imagine using triangles. Another day, have children focus on quadrilaterals making windows, buildings, boxes, books, toys, or anything they can imagine. Continue with pentagons, 5 sided shapes.

Shapes (Math Counts) by Henry Pluckrose
A great book to get children thinking about the shapes they see in the world around them. The first few pages ask children to run their finger around the edge of a square, circle, rectangle, hexagon, and triangle. Then there is a page showing three different squares and the next page showing five different triangles that ask children to look at how they are similar and different. The next part of the book is great for talking about going on a shape hunt—there are photographs where children can find rectangles, squares, triangles, circles in the real world—even hexagons in the honeycomb. On page 16, the author introduces the word tessellation to describe shapes that fit together without leaving spaces. While the word is probably new to children, its probably a concept they have experienced when building in the block area or making designs with the pattern blocks.

Math extension. Go on a shape hunt in your classroom, your school, and outside. Find circles such as clocks, knobs, or stools. Find rectangles in windows, art paper, or photographs. Have children cut out their own shapes and glue them onto paper to make pictures and designs.

Home activity. Ask children and caregivers to go on a shape hunt at home.