Friday, May 6, 2016

Tiny Polka Dot: A deck of math cards for ages 3 - 8

I already posted about the first Math For Love game, Prime Climb.  They recently started a new Kickstarter campaign for a specialized deck of math cards, called Tiny Polka Dot, which is aimed at kids in pre-K to 2nd grade.  There are lots of mathematical games and activities that use a standard deck of cards (here are some examples), but these have 6 different suits each of which represent the numbers from 0 to 10 in a different way - ten frames, big and little dots, circles, doubles plus one, numerals, and dice patterns.

Tiny Polka Cards
Photo of Tiny Polka Cards from their Kickstarter page

They include 12 different games which teach conservation of number, one-to-one correspondence, subitizing, addition, and subtraction. They also encourage parents and kids to make up their own games or modify standard card games for this deck.  This is a great way to make mathematics playful and fun! I just backed this project and highly recommend that you do too!


  1. Two thoughts that spring out from the picture you included:
    (1) would it have been better to include cards for 11s, so 12 cards of each type, 72 overall? 72 has 12 factors, while 66 has only 8 factors, which would probably allow greater game and # of player flexibility.

    (2) Is it awkward or great that the numerals "6" and "9" are identical (up to rotation)? Working with my 4 yo, I've recently been finding it a pain. Maybe more sensitized to the issue since the traditional numerals where I live (Thailand) don't have this bug/feature.

    1. (1) Most math card games that I know use 1 through 10, although a few add 11s and 12s. Including a few more numbers would definitely add flexibility, but would have diminishing returns. Also, the different representations would look a little different for numbers greater than 10... there would be multiple 10 frames on a card.

      (2) It doesn't look like the numeral cards for 6 and 9 are distinguished at all in this deck... I'll ask about that. I generally consider the relationship between the numerals for 6 and 9 a bug and not a feature. It especially gets confusing in games. One upside I can think of is that it could lead to interesting conversations about symmetry, representations of numbers, and what we consider to be the same.

    2. Here's their response:

      Much of the math we wanted to emphasize has to do with making 5 or 10, and most of the card games that were our inspiration don't go beyond 10 either. There starts to be a limit to how many cards you want in the deck as well. What felt critical was the 1-digit numbers 0 - 9, and the number 10. If we want to work with numbers beyond that in any game, we can build up to them by combining two smaller cards.

      Yes! In the first set of prototypes we forgot to differentiate the 6 from the 9. We fixed that later.

      I'd say the 6 and 9 looking like each other is a bug. There are games that try to use it to their advantage, but it never feels convincing to me. If I could wave a wand and have everyone use a different symbol for 6, I would.