2016 Summer Game: Piggyback Race

How’s your summer been? I was at a family reunion in Prescott, Wisconsin last weekend. We had four generations that day at the farm that my grandparents purchased many many years ago. My dad grew up on this patch of heaven, his sister and husband took over the farm and raised their family, then their son and wife moved in for just a year before they built their house – that was 20-something years ago. Maybe someday their daughter will raise her family here.

Long ago, my grandfather and grandmother had children and became a family of five. Their three children married and had children. Then we were a family of 14. As the children’s children married and had their children, we are now 39. Yes, some are gone now, but they are still with us, in our history, in our stories, and in our hearts.

As I was looking at how 2 became 39, I was thinking this week’s game will be about multiplication. Sound good to you? The first game I’m going to share is Piggyback Race from the Math Card Games book written by Dr. Joan A. Cotter. This is game P11 from the multiplication chapter.

This is a great game for younger learners or for those needing to brush up on their multiplication skills. If a child is needing some assistance, have them use an AL Abacus or the skip counting patterns. The winner of the game is decided totally by chance and it’s a blast!

Choose a set of multiplication cards. Let’s use the 3s today. So we need the ten multiples of 3: 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, and 30. We’ll also need 12 basic number cards of the same number as the set chosen, 3s in our game here. We’ll also need four 0-cards from the basic number cards too. So that comes to 10 multiplication cards and 16 basic number cards.

We will need two players or two teams if you have extra kids that want to play. We’ll also need two markers that can be stacked. Personally I like those flat erasers or colored tiles.

Lay out the multiplication cards in a row. Leave a gap after the fifth card. This helps the players quickly identify the card placement. Shuffle the basic number cards and turn them face down to form the stock.

set up

To start, place both markers at the starting of the row. The first player turns over a card from the stock. If it’s a 3, she then moves her marker to the first card and says, “3 taken 1 time is 3.”

3 x 1

If the card turned over is a 0, she cannot move and it’s the next player’s turn.

0 card

The players continue taking turns and stating the appropriate facts: “3 taken 2 times is 6,” and “3 taken 3 times is 9,” and so on.

What if a player lands on a card with a marker already in place? He puts his marker on top of the first one.

3 x 5

If the bottom marker moves, she’ll take the other player with her as a “rider”! But the top marker can move off the first anytime he has a card to move him along.

3 x 6

If the basic number cards are all used up, shuffle and re-use them. The winner is the first person to move down the line to the last card. Although this isn’t a super complicated game, it’s fun. More importantly, the kids are practicing their math facts!

If you’re looking to ramp up the multiplication fact review, check out What’s on Top, game P12. This is another simple game, but here the players need to know their facts. Again, use the AL Abacus or the skip counting patterns for assistance.

This game can have two or three players. Or, of course, two or three teams! We’re going to use one set of multiplication cards. Since we already have the 3s out, lets use those again. Lay them out in order, putting a slight gap after the fifth card.

We’re also going to need an assortment basic number cards for the multipliers; 15 or more basic number cards per player, but no 0s. These are to be placed face down forming the stock.

Finally, we need about 15 markers per player. The Math Card Games book suggests using the clock cards face down for two players. They come in two colors and stack nicely. This family is using the colored tiles. I’m sure you can find something around the house you can use.

What's on Top game girl

The first player turns over a basic number card. He then multiplies the number of the set, 3s today, by the multiplier, the basic number card in hand, and places his marker on or above the correct card. He also call out the equation. Since we are using 3s and our player turned over a 7, he puts his marker above the 27 and says “3 × 7 = 21.

3 x 7

The next child takes her turn.

3 x 4

If someone finds a marker already at the product they need, they puts their marker on top of the other marker in place.

3 x 8 topper

Play continues until all the markers are used up. To determine the winner, count only the top marker cards.


An advanced version of the What’s on Top game is What’s on Top Now, game P13. Here we will mix up the row of multiplication cards. Now we’re going to have to know our facts and “skip counting” won’t assist!         P13

Enjoy these games and see you next week!


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