I’ve written before about students making games to cement their learning, but I want to show off Andrew Arevalo’s project, Top-Middle-Bottom, a math game his fourth grade students designed.

Top-Middle-Bottom is a card game, where students play cards to either grow their points or to reduce other players’ points. One player serves as the “banker,” which is the scorekeeper of the game. This role is central to gameplay; with the constant change of the scoreboard, the banker gets significant practice in arithmetic, plus the other players are constantly monitoring the scoreboard to double-check the math.


This game has brought not only great content practice to students but a much higher engagement and interest in math. And as we all know, when students are having fun and enjoying what they’re learning, their commitment and willingness to be challenged rises.

What makes this game doubly powerful is that the students designed it. Teacher-designed games or commercial games can be great for student learning, but when students experience the design, iteration, and thinking behind the game, their understanding grows.

My own kids and I have been really lucky to play Top-Middle-Bottom. Beautiful high-quality cards and lots of strategy and opportunities to win. In all, Andrew’s students have designed 22 cards (currently), but even playing with the first 8 is a big plenty for a challenging game. This game certainly has potential to grow and expand as you bring in new cards or take out others.  All my kids–14 yo daughter and 10 & 12 yo sons–enjoyed playing!

To check out more about Top-Middle Bottom, go here.  And check out a student journalism piece about the game below: