Solitaire Pyramid

Primary/Junior (Age 6 – 12)

Curriculum Goal

Primary: Number Sense

  • Use the properties of addition and subtraction, and the relationships between addition and multiplication and between subtraction and division, to solve problems and check calculations.

Junior: Number Sense

  • Use the properties of operations, and the relationships between addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, to solve problems involving whole numbers, including those requiring more than one operation, and check calculations.


  • 2-4 students and the teacher will be sitting on the carpet facing the pyramid or on a video conference chat.
  • ​Students should have previous experience with adding, subtracting (primary), multiplying and dividing (junior).


In-person version

  • 1 standard 52-card deck laid face up in a 7-card base pyramid (see image)

Online version


  • The goal is for children to work as a team to remove all the cards in the pyramid.​
  • Cards become exposed and available to clear when no cards are touching the bottom (e.g., the base of the pyramid has no cards attached to the bottom.
  • Only one card can be pulled from the pyramid per turn.​
  • To start, each student chooses a target number between 5-15.​
  • On their turn, the student:
    • Looks to see if their target number is open in the pyramid. If it is, they put it in the clear pile.
    • ​If their target number not available, the student pulls a card from the deck and determines if they can add or subtract to make their target number using the pulled card and any exposed card in the pyramid. If they can make their target number, the place both the pulled card and the card from the pyramid in the clear pile. If they can’t use the pulled card, it is put in the discard pile.​
    • The student can also pull a card from the top of the discard pile if they can use it and an exposed card from the pyramid to make their target number.​
  • The game is over when either all the cards from the pyramid are cleared, or when the cards in the deck run out.

Look Fors

  • Do the students think strategically when selecting their target number?
  • What strategies do the children implement to reach their target number?
  • ​Can children use addition and subtraction with single and/or double-digit numbers?​
  • Can students use different operations within the game?​
  • How do the children work collaboratively? Do they support each other in finding their numbers on the board?
  • ​Do the students think strategically about which cards to take when they have multiple options?


  • Have students choose 2 cards in the pyramid to make the target numbers.
  • Introduce clearing of more than 3 cards from the pyramid if they use more than 2 cards to create their target number (primary).
  • Introduce other operations such as multiplication or division to create matches (junior).
  • Introduce order of operations (PEDMAS) thinking by combining addition, subtraction, multiplication and division operations to clear their selected number.

Related Lessons

A competitive activity with a similar outcome. Students use addition and subtraction skills to reach a target number.

A possible follow up activity, students move into practicing their multiplication/division skills.

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