Nifty 50 Card Game

Deck of cards shuffled and fanned out on table

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Deck of cards shuffled and fanned out on table

  • What: Nifty 50 card game
  • When: Six years and up
  • Why: Improve basic math skills, fun
  • Where: At home

Add or Subtract Your Way to Victory

If you’ve grown tired of Uno and Fairy Queen, and need another game to while away your child’s hours, try out this simple card game called Nifty 50. 

Playing cards laid out for nifty fifty card game
Using the 10 and king as a 1, and the Ace as a zero, this layout makes 41 on top and 10 on the bottom. Add the two numbers to get 51.

Get started with nothing more than a standard deck of cards. Shuffle the deck and split the cards evenly between all players. Each player then takes the four cards from the top of their stack. The goal of each round is to make an addition or subtraction equation with an answer as close to 50 as possible. Players configure two digit numbers by using the numbers on each card. Number cards are each worth their value (2-9), while 10’s and face cards all act as ones. Aces serve as zeros. Combine the digits to make two numbers, then add or subtract the two numbers to try and equal fifty.

Playing cards laid out in two rows of two to make math problems
These four cards can be laid out to make 89 on top and 31 on the bottom row. 89-31 = 58

The person closest to 50 gets one point. If you can get exactly 50, you earn two points. Any players who come equally close cancel each other out, and neither player earns any points in that round. Keep a running total (we like to use tally marks on our chalkboard mats) handy nearby. Once you’ve played the four cards dealt to you, discard them and take four new cards to start the next round.

Playing cards laid out in two rows of two to make two digit numbers for Nifty 50 card game
The same four cards can be laid out to make 38 on top and 19 on bottom. 38 + 19 = 57 which is one closer to 50 than the previous layout.

Kids can play this game solo to improve their skills, or you can play with multiple players. There’s really no limit, though after four or five players, you can add a second deck to provide enough cards. You can play through the deck, and see who has the most points, or reshuffle as needed to reach a certain point total before declaring the winner.

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