Math Magic: A Counting Trick to Have Your Kids Adding in No Time

By Sarah Hauge, Publisher, Macaroni Kid, Englewood-Greenwood Village-Centennial, Colo. March 19, 2019

I love all things related to numbers and patterns. But my first grader? 

Not really ... at least not yet! I'm trying to change that by showing her how cool numbers can be. One idea I had: a nifty party trick I learned many, many years ago. I decided to give it a try with my daughter. 

As it turns out, she enjoys the thrill of the trick so much that she has been practicing her addition skills on her own. And even my 4-year-old wants in on the magic! 

It's a simple trick and a great way for kids to practice their addition skills. Here's how to do it:

  1. Download this free printable and print the cards. 
  2. Cut them out.
  3. Ask your child to think of a number between 1 and 50.
  4. Hold up one card at a time and ask "Is your number on this card?"
  5. Once you've gone through the cards, add up the FIRST number in each table for all "yes" responses. 
  6. You'll all be amazed to find that the number you came up with matches their number!

Voila! It's as simple as that. Now let your child take a turn. If they're like my kids, they'll soon want to try out their new "magic trick" on as many people as they can find!

Click here to download the cards you need for the trick!

Here's an example of how it works: 

I'm thinking of the number 19

The number 19 appears on the following three cards. Notice how the first number of each card (1, 2, and 16) add up to 19? That's all there is to it!

Macaroni Kid Tips:

  • It's easiest for kids to add the numbers if they begin with the largest number first. Start by showing the cards in order of highest value (in the first box) to the lowest value (in the first box).
  • Kids can impress friends by adding the numbers in their head faster and faster. It just takes lots of addition practice!
  • Write the first number of each card on the BACK of each card. You'll be able to figure out the answer without even looking at the front of the card!

Math "magic" that makes addition fun? That really is a great trick!

Sarah Hauge is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Englewood-Greenwood Village-Centennial, Colo.