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4 Cards Playing Card Puzzle

This 4 Cards Playing Card Puzzle is actually three puzzles in one. Students are challenged to arrange four playing cards to fulfill three different challenges.

4 cards playing card puzzle

I printed jumbo cards and attached ceramic disc magnets to the back of each card so my students could easily manipulate the cards while trying to solve the three playing card challenges.

4 cards playing card puzzle

I typed up this puzzle years ago and laminated it, but I recently came across it in my file cabinet and realized that I have never actually used the puzzle with students or shared it here on the blog.


drawing of laminator machine with text "laminating recommendations"

A laminator is a MUST-HAVE for me as a math teacher! I spent my first six years as a teacher at a school with a broken laminator, so I had to find a way to laminate things myself.

I’ve had several laminators over the years. I currently use a Scotch laminator at home and a Swingline laminator at school.

I highly recommend splurging a bit on the actual laminator and buying the cheapest laminating pouches you can find!

I decided to post each of the challenges separately, as pictured above. But I also created a printable version of the activity that lists all three challenges on a single page.

4 cards playing card puzzle

I also created jumbo printable playing cards that you can print and use with this puzzle if you want to post it on your dry erase board or smaller printable playing cards if you want students to solve the puzzle individually at their desks.

4 cards playing card puzzle

Of course, you could always use regular playing cards with this puzzle as well if you preferred.

The Three Challenges

  • Arrange the cards so that exactly four pips are visible on each card.
  • Arrange the cards so that exactly three pips are visible on each card.
  • Arrange the cards so that the four cards display 1, 2, 3, and 4 pips respectively. The specific order of the 1-pip, 2-pip, 3-pip, and 4-pip cards isn’t important, only that there is one of each.
4 cards playing card puzzle

When I have shared puzzles like this in the past, some blog readers have expressed concern over whether students would understand what a “pip” was. I had this puzzle up all last week in my classroom, and multiple students tackled the puzzle without ever asking me what a “pip” was.

I think that students should be able to understand the meaning using context clues, but feel free to download the editable version and reword it if you think it will be too much for your students.

Puzzle Source

I ran across this puzzle in The Big, Big, Big Book of Brainteasers by The Grabarchuk Family. Challenge 1 is actually a classic brainteaser which was originally posed by Professor Hoffman in 1893.

Alternate Halloween Version

I’ve got a Halloween version of this puzzle with Halloween symbols instead of clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds in the works. !

Puzzle Solutions

I intentionally do not make answers to the printable math puzzles I share on my blog available online because I strive to provide learning experiences for my students that are non-google-able. I would like other teachers to be able to use these puzzles in their classrooms as well without the solutions being easily found on the Internet.

However, I do recognize that us teachers are busy people and sometimes need to quickly reference an answer key to see if a student has solved a puzzle correctly or to see if they have interpreted the instructions properly.

If you are a teacher who is using these puzzles in your classroom, please send me an email at with information about what you teach and where you teach. I will be happy to forward an answer key to you.