Math is one of those things that comes easy for Tadpole. She understands the concepts flawlessly. What she struggles with, however, is the actual calculations. She can do multiplication and division pretty easily. She learned her times tables long ago. But she does not quickly and easily add and subtract. This is something we drill quite regularly by doing pop quizzes while in the car or waiting at the doctor’s office. We typically do several math drills each week from our favorite math website, Math-Drills.com. But while on a mini vacation recently we found a way to drill basic math that was a lot more fun – Blackjack!
For those who are unfamiliar, Blackjack is a casino card game where the object is to get as close to 21 without going over. Instead of playing against other players, you play against the dealer. Not only do you have to, rather quickly, count how many points you have and determine if you want to try for more but you have to estimate what the possibilities are for the dealer. We taught Tadpole the basics of Blackjack over the weekend and played quite a bit during down times. Not only did she think it was a fun game but she gained confidence in adding and subtracting quickly.
Basic rules of Blackjack
Each player is dealt from left to right a single card that is face up. The dealer’s card is dealt face down. A second card is dealt to each player from left to right face up and this time the dealer’s card is also face up. Each player looks at their cards to determine the points they have. Number cards are worth the face value, face cards are worth 10 points and an ace can be either a one or an eleven. The player then decides if they want to take another card (hit) or stay where they are (stand). This continues until the player decides to stand or they go over 21 (bust). Play continues with the next player until it’s the dealer’s turn. Players win the hand if they beat the dealer without going over 21.
Dealer rules and basic strategy
When playing Blackjack in Vegas or another casino there is an element of luck. Sometimes you just have to “go with your gut” and throw out any rules. This still holds true when playing for fun. However, there are some basic rules that the dealer must adhere to and players should probably pay attention to. Dealer must stand if the hand is 17 or over and must hit if it is under. This is a rule for the dealer but a pretty good guideline for the other players. However, strategy should be thought of and before determining if you want to hit or stand, check out what the dealer has showing and estimate the possibilities of the hand. You can do an Internet search for all the nuances of the rules and for strategy hints. Older kids might really get a kick out of delving into this but we kept it simple.
Practical lessons for Blackjack Math
In order to play and continue the flow of the game the players must be able to add and subtract. They have to add their initial two cards to get their point value and subtract from 21 to see what cards they can get dealt without going over. This continues each time there is a hit. The concept of probability is introduced and there are opportunities to estimate. All in all, this was a great family fun time playing a card game. But, the fact that there were highly useful math skills that were practiced was an added bonus. Try it out and let us know how it goes!