Welcome, Dotson!

Apr 13, 2018

We are super excited to announce our new Deck o’ Dots, featuring our new character Dotson! 

Dotson is a part of our Math Mights family. The last of original 10,000 decks of Deck o’ Dots has gone to its new home and so it’s time to welcome our new and improved Deck o’ Dots and our subitizing superhero!

New and Improved

For this new version of Deck o’ Dots, our whole focus was making it a more user-friendly, more organized product that teachers can easily use in their classrooms. The deck now comes in a box (!), and each of the cards has a small circle area to help students as they’re labelling the cards to indicate which cards go with which deck. Whether you use a sticker or a marker to draw a letter, this will help keep everything straight!

The new Deck o’ Dots will also have a downloadable companion (coming in May 2018 Now available in our store!)so that teachers can easily play the games in the classroom as centers or in a math workshop. The companion will include directions on how to play the games, strategies for differentiation, instructions on how to increase the complexity of the games students are playing, and accountability. We also wanted to help teachers learn to increase the complexity of the games students are playing, even within the three basic levels of cards included. This unique card game is also a great choice for parent nights and events since the Deck o’ Dots is so easy to use!

Shop Deck o’ Dots!

History of Deck o’ Dots

Deck o’ Dots was originally designed two and a half years ago based on something we used to make-n-take at workshops. We used to cut out dot cards on different colored card stocks so students could play the games in the classrooms. As you can imagine, that took quite a bit of time! During my workshops, it usually took so long for us to cut and make-n-take, that I often left feeling like I didn’t have enough time to help teachers fully understand the application of what we were trying to do with the cards.

So, I decided to make my own set of cards!  I wanted a variety of levels, from scatters all the way down to 5-frames, and we wanted to find a way for educators to differentiate easily, which we decided to do by color. Each set of cards has three different colors that correspond to the different levels. Red is the 5-frame, yellow is the 10-frame, and green is the scatter.

As we observed kids playing in the green level, we realized that some kids were able to subitize (all the way up to 10), but some still tended to go back to counting each of the dots if the card was a number higher than 5. Consequently, the cards in the green section  are differentiated even further. Half of the green cards are 0-5 scatters and students can work up to the higher level cards scatters (6-10) and those cards are denoted by small stars on Dotson’s shoes. We wanted it to be hard to tell which cards are higher or lower while the teachers are working with other students.

Sneak Peek: Deck o’ Dots Difference

This is one of the most popular games to play with Deck o’ Dots! In this game, children flip cards (similar to the card game War), but instead of finding out who has the most or the least in order to win the round, they’re figuring out the difference between the two amounts shown on each of their respective cards and the person with the larger number gets to select the number of counters that corresponds with the difference.

For example: Partner A flips over an 8. Partner B flips over a 6. Partner A wins the round, and since he has two more than Partner B, he gets two counters from the bank to add to his collection.

Teachers can print the regular game board on one side of a clear plastic sleeve and have the students play the standard Deck o’ Dot Difference game, where students are flipping one value at a time. Or students could play the basic game on a higher level with larger scatters where they are using the green deck with Dotson’s starred sneakers.

As kids begin to subitize better, they move on to understanding combinations. On the other side of the clear plastic sleeve, teachers can print the more advanced game board that adds an extra challenge to the traditional Deck o’ Dot Difference concept. In this version of the game, students flip over two cards each. Each player flips two cards, adds his/her combination together, and then has to find the difference between each person’s amount. If I flip a 7 and a 5, I add them up to make 12. My partner may have an 8 and a 6, which totals 14. The difference between 14 and 12 is two, so my partner gets two chips from the bank and wins the round. For this version, the pile of counters for the game would probably need to be a little bit larger (closer to 50).


As we‘ve talked about before, one of the biggest challenges or goals is to have differentiation be invisible in your classroom. If we walked into your classroom and the students were playing Deck o’ Dots Difference, it would appear that everybody is playing the same game. However, we’ve hidden the levels based on where kids are in numeracy development. You might see one set of students playing with the higher level deck marked by with Dotson’s starred sneakers, or another group of kids are playing in the yellow deck which is 10-frames. They’re all still working on the same objective it’s just making it more challenging as they go.


Accountability is another huge piece of using the Deck o’ Dots. If you’re sitting with your guided math group at your table, you don’t always know if the rest of the students at the other stations are playing the games correctly or accurately, if the games are rigorous enough, or if the students are actually using the 8 Mathematical Practices. Typically, when a student goes to a station, they play the game, return it back to the math salad bar, and then get out another game without any way to know if students have made the academic connection that we were hoping for.

Instead of just flying through games or going through the motions, students must understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and record something that demonstrates that understanding. The accountability sheet becomes as much a part of the game as any other manipulative, and turning it in at the end of the game is a requirement. Before you start to panic too much, we know you don’t need anything else to grade! Don’t feel like you have to grade every one of those accountability sheets that get turned in. You could assign a participation grade/percentage that could be part of their math grade. This can help show students that, not only do you have to do work in the Math by Myself station and the Math with a Teacher station, but that when you are in Math with Someone, we’re playing quality games.

What’s Coming

It’s really important to me that the game boards are not cluttered with a lot of cuteness. I think sometimes we get so involved in ideas and themes and holidays, it takes away from the intent of what we’re trying to do with students. Game boards don’t need to be fancy. They can just be in black and white. You might use card stock for durability, but you can put it in a clear plastic sleeve instead of laminating it and then have a pile of accountability sheets that might go with the game.

We’ve created sample accountability sheets that will be available in the download for Deck o’ Dots that should be released in May 2018 is now available! But accountability sheets don’t have to be fancy either! It can be as simple as a 3×5 card with the kid having a criteria of what you want them to write down.

The Deck o’ Dots will also have training videos that go along with it so you can see exactly how to play the games with students and how you might want to differentiate them.

Click here to read more about Deck o’ Dots Games and get a free download


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