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Math Games
With Jane and Joanne

What's the Difference?



Grades 3 and up


  • subtracting 3-digit numbers


  • 2 or more, or teacher vs. the entire group


  • playing cards Ace (=1) through 10 (10=0)
  • one gameboard for each player (follow the link to our printable gameboard, or have students create their own)


The object of this game is to make the smallest difference.

Place the deck face down in the middle of the playing area. A player draws a card from the deck and places it face up. Each player selects a space on their gameboard and writes the number of the card on that space.

Then players draw five more cards and fill in their gameboards.

The first card turned over is a 7. The second card turned over is a 2. The other cards turned over were 3, 6, 5, and another 2. Completed gameboards could look like this:
Player 1 Player 2
155 425
Once players have filled in all spaces on their gameboards, they complete the subtraction. The player with the smallest difference is the winner for the round and scores 1 point. In the example above, Player 1 has the smallest difference and is the winner of this round.

In the event of a tie, each player receives 1 point. Any negative difference causes that player to strike out for that round.

The winner of the game is the player with the most points after a set number of rounds or a set time limit.

As players gain more experience with this game, they will develop strategies to maximize their chances of winning.


Vary the number of cards to modify the level of difficulty.

Joanne Currah and Jane Felling have created two best-selling math game books -- Shuffling Into Math (for teachers of grades K-3) and All Hands on Deck (grades 1-9). Each book includes simple instructions for more than 100 math games that help children discover math concepts and reinforce math skills. Education World is pleased to present a selection of those activities in this series.

Click to learn more about these books and other exciting products and service from Joanne and Jane's Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks.

More About Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks

Joanne Currah and Jane Felling created their company, BOX CARS & ONE-EYED JACKS, for the sole purpose of making math fun -- not threatening or frustrating -- for children. Joanne and Jane spend many days each year on the road as they train teachers to make math fun for kids and run Family Math Nights at schools. To learn more about the authors, their books, and the services they provide, visit them at or email them at [email protected].

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