Math Talk with 24 Cards

By: Mary Kienstra on: December 14, 2016  in: #tlap, Engagement, math discussion

The first few minutes of class are the most important for learning.  This is the time to hook your students and get them in the MATH frame of mind.  24 Cards are the just the thing to draw them in.  Students’ math talk with 24 cards shows their understanding and gives them the opportunity to experiment with their number sense too.

What are 24 Cards?

24 cards challenge kids to think flexibly.  Each card shows 4 different numbers and the goal is to combine those numbers using any operation to equal 24.  There are three levels of difficulty in each set based on the number of dots shown in the corner of the card.  One dot is the easiest, two dots are more difficult, and three dots are the most challenging.

Why use 24 Cards?

When students create equations using these 24 Cards, they are practicing the order of operations, fact fluency, and number sense.  They experiment with combinations and think about how to show their thinking in writing equations.  Sharing these equations encourages other students to try new equations too.

The math talk is fabulous as students come to the board to explain their thinking, considering the order of operations and telling how they solved the problem.  They also compare different forms of the same equation and analyze when order matters.  Students build on each others’ ideas as they question each other and offer suggestions.  This routine begins in third grade and continues through fourth and fifth grades.

Third graders begin with the single digit cards.  This is a good starting point for these learners who are eager to prove their math thinking.  As the year progresses, these math students become more and more confident with the order of operations and their math thinking.

Fourth graders use the double digit cards.  These cards challenge them to work with larger numbers while still combining them to equal 24.  They work to create new combinations and become more confident with their fluency.


Fifth graders graduate to the fraction cards when they learn division of fractions.  These cards are challenging as students use all four operations along with the order of operations to create equations that equal 24.   As students use these cards, it is very evident who truly understands multiplying and dividing fractions.


Any math procedure or routine that engages kids in math thinking is a Win in my class.  24 Cards are just that for us.  What are those routines for your class?

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