Tiny Polka Dot Part 2: Two New Games

Players: 1-4
Ages: 6 and up
Cost: $15 (Buy on Amazon)
Math Ideas: Addition, logical deduction
Questions to Ask
    Can you build a smaller pyramid that fits the description?
    Who has an advantage, the first player or the second? What if there are three players?

One of the first games I ever recommended on this newsletter was Dan Finkel's fantastic game, Tiny Polka Dot.

The game is actually more like a deck of cards that was designed to get your young child thinking about math as much as possible. As a result, you can actually play dozens of games with these simple cards.


Just to recap: the deck is make up of six colorful "suits" of cards that display the numbers from 0-10. Each suit displays the numbers in a distinct way, which allows your child to build flexibility with different representations of numbers.

But even once they're totally confident with counting and basic addition, there are still a ton of fun games to play. Today I'd like to share with you a couple of my favorites.

Pyramid Puzzle

To play this game, take two sets of cards from the deck so that you have two copies of each number from 0-10.

Using 10 of those 22 cards, can you construct a pyramid so that each card is the sum of the two cards below it?


Here is a near-solution provided by Dan. As you can see, the top 10 card is the sum of the 7 and 3 cards below it. Unfortunately, Dan has used up all his 2 cards and so he can't find a card to fit in that last, face-down location. Shoot!

But maybe your child can find a solution! It will involve a lot more thinking about how to decompose numbers into two smaller numbers, and a lot of trial and error.

If your child gets stuck, ask them "Could you make a three-level pyramid that works? If you can make that, could you somehow extend your pyramid to a fourth level?" Not all three-level pyramids can be extended, but some can! 

Another great question is "What is the smallest number that you can place on the top of this pyramid?" 

10 might be the smallest, but it might not! Can your child make 9 work? What about 8?

In any case, this is an awesome puzzle to let your child pore over for a while. Just make sure you don't solve it for them. It's better to let them linger over an unsolved puzzle than to get told the answer and promptly lose all interest in the problem.


I love this game because it changes dramatically depending on the number of players. You can play with two, three, or four players as follows:


Deal out five rows of the 1-5 cards, as shown. Then, each player takes turns flipping over a card and adding its value to the total so far. If the first player flips over a 4, then when the second player flips over a 3 she will announce "Seven" to the room.

The goal of the game is to be the person who says "Thirty-one!" as you flip over the card that adds to that total.

In its two-player version, this game reminds me of The 100 Game (of which I am the World Champion, remember). But it certainly gets more complex as you increase the number of players. Can you anticipate what your opponents will pull? Can you arrange it so that the sum is just high enough to guarantee you a victory? Grab the cards and find out!

Bonus: Garbage


After I shared my recommendation for Garbage, my friend Molly Rawding shared a variation she played with her kids using the Tiny Polka Dot cards!

As you might recall from my earlier newsletter, Garbage is a perfect pre-school game, since it gets kids thinking about the relationship between the numbers from 1 to 10. 

Using the Tiny Polka Dot cards just ramps up the thinking, since kids have to identify each number by counting, then place it in its proper location. Thanks, Molly!

Click here to buy Tiny Polka Dot from Amazon