Carbon Central: A Chemistry Card Game

Carbon Central a biochemistry and chemistry card game

I include Amazon affiliate links to the tools I’m using in this post because I know you’ll want to know and ask me what I used. If you click the link and buy a tool, I will get a few cents, which I will undoubtedly save in my Amazon account to use to purchase board games for my kids.

Have you ever taught high school chemistry and wanted to give your students a flavor of organic chemistry, when there really isn’t time to go deep into it near the end of the year? I designed this chemistry card game to give you and your students a fun way to introduce organic compounds and the functional groups you will normally see in them! I named “Carbon Central” after a suggestion from a Facebook follower (follow me on Facebook and Instagram to see my new creations as I create them!)

This biochemistry or chemistry card game is a trick-taking game. You may be familiar with hearts or spades or pinochle. Carbon Central is a basic trick-taking game where students win tricks by placing the highest card (highest by atomic number!) of a particular color in a set of 4 cards. The game is meant to be played with two teams of 2; players on the same team sit across from each other.

Here is the sneaky teacher-y part of this game: in biochemistry and organic chemistry, the determination of the arrangement around a chiral center carbon is really important. Scientists need to determine whether something is an R or S enantiomers. How scientists determine that is by the groups attached to the central carbon! The atomic number gives an atom priority in this determination. By playing this chemistry card game, students will gain a gut-feeling about the size of functional groups and their chiral-center-naming-priority, just by playing for fun!

The goal in the game is for a team to get the most points, and the high cards in the game provide points (these cards have a red +1 point value on them to remind students which provide points and which don’t).

Aside from the trick-taking Carbon Central game, I also include a description in this game set that you can use as a different activity for Formula Writing. You can make it a game and have students write formulas or even name compounds faster than their classmates.

Here is how I prepare the cards (I include specific card cutting instructions to help you make it easy for yourself!):

Printing educational card game cards

1. Print on white card stock and cut the cards out.

If you want the cards to have a back, I would suggest using a glue stick to glue a solid color piece of paper onto the card stock before cutting it out. Then you can cut out the chemistry card game cards and they will already have a back. I did that with another set of cards I created recently for my organelle card game you can read about here. I have a new favorite way to fix the card back issue – card sleeves! I’ll show you those later on in this blog post. I cut my cards using this handy cutter.

Using a corner rounder for educational game cards

2. Round 3 of the corners of your chemistry card game cards.

I love the look of rounded corners on the chemistry card game cards. I use this corner rounder. I just round the non-carbon corners, because I like the look when all 4 cards are lined up in the trick in the center.

Protecting teacher card game cards in these card sleeves

3. Place them in plastic game card sleeves to protect your chemistry card game cards!

I don’t love using plastic (I do think about sustainability and adding plastic to the environment) but I weigh that again having to reprint the game year to year when students mess the cards up. In the end, I think that backing your cards with card game sleeves will save paper and electricity and ink in the long run.

I like to use this particular brand of card game sleeves (I learned about them when I was reading about how independent card game designers protect their cards and I was hooked! Where have these been all my life? I think in the future I will design my task cards to fit in these SO EASY to use solution to card protection.)

Homemade card game in card sleeves

4. Show students how to play!

Students may not be familiar with trick-taking games, so I do suggest showing the students an open hand trick to start. I also include Carbon Central chemistry card game instructions you can give students at a game station, including a diagram of a sample trick!

I like to store my card games in these photo boxes.

Storing card games in photo boxes

And that’s it! That’s Carbon Central! You can find it here on Teachers Pay Teachers. I hope your students love it!

Carbon Central Chemistry Card Game

How to Print Your Own Card Game Decks

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