The 15 to Zero game can be played just for fun, although it’s also a great way to practice addition facts for ages six and up. Older children and adults will enjoy playing with children because there is some strategy involved.
Each player has a set of cards numbered from one to fifteen plus one of three cards that I'll describe later. The game comes with three custom dice. One die has numbers 1 through 3, the second die has numbers 4 through 6, and the third has numbers 7 through 9. To begin play, you turn over the top card on the deck. Going around the circle, players take turns rolling all three dice. With each set of numbers that are rolled, all players try to be the first to play one of their cards that matches either the number on one die or the sum of the numbers on either two or three dice. The goal is to be the first to get rid of the 15 cards in their hand. It gets tougher as players have fewer cards in their hands. Numbers at both ends of the spectrum can sometimes be more difficult to play towards the end of the game, so players should generally try to play them as early in the game as possible.
If two players try to play the same number, the second player has to take theirs back and try for another number. So it works to a player’s advantage to mentally work quickly through their options and play their card first. If a player doesn't have a card left that works for that round, they lose the chance to play any card.
At the point where most players are down to four or fewer cards, it might be a good time for a player to use the special card they received at the beginning of the game. A Freeze Card blocks a particular number from being played the next round. The Switch Card has each player blindly draw a card from their neighbor’s hand. The Pick-Up Card can be handed to another player, and it requires them to pick up the last two discarded cards. One player might be ahead of the others, but playing one of these cards can change the outcome of the game.
15 to Zero is another way to reinforce fluency with addition facts while having fun. As my granddaughter says, “It’s a good kid’s game with math included.”