Six Easy Math Games Using Dice

› Dice Games

Roll out the fun!  Your students will love these math games using dice, and you will too since they are easy and support learning objectives.

Using dice for playing math games in an elementary classroom

Kids learn best when they are playing an educational game or actively learning.  

Math games for children have been used by many cultures and we continue to play them today.

The ancient Egyptians had games and weighted dice that ensured easy wins.  These have also been found in the ruins of Pompeii. It seems that nearly every culture has a game or two based on these little cubes.

Rolling the dice is more than just fun: it teaches strategy, critical thinking, making predictions and works on basic math skills.

Easy Math Dice Games

Pig: Mental Addition and Critical Thinking
The goal of Pig is to be the first player to get to 100. The game is played with a pair of dice, and requires a paper and pencil for scoring.

1. The first player rolls the dice, calculates the sum (mentally), then rolls again if he or she wants to. The next sum is added to the first. The player can roll as often as s/he wants to before play goes to the next turn. However...

2. If a 1 comes up on one of the dice before the player decides to stop rolling, the player scores 0 for that round. The play goes to the next player.

3. Worse still, if a 1 comes up on both of the dice, the turn ends and the player's entire total falls to 0.

Lead a class discussion about strategies used in Pig and how opponents need to be able to use mental math to check that the roller is playing fairly.

Going to Boston: Math Facts
This game requires three dice and pencil & paper.

In one turn, the first player rolls all three dice. The highest roll is put aside. The next two dice are rolled and the highest number is put aside again. The last dice is rolled, then all three dice are added together.

The winner is whoever gets to a predetermined amount first, such as 100.

Variations on the game are adding the first two dice and multiplying the sum by the third; using any combination of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division to get the highest number possible, or just using two dice to practice basic math facts (addition, subtraction or multiplication).

Number Sense Call Out
These teacher-led math games using dice work on math vocabulary.

Using overhead dice or large foam dice, the teacher rolls two numbers. A series of questions follows each roll:

  • Write the sum in word form.
  • What is the difference of the two numbers?
  • Make a fraction using the lower digit as the numerator.
  • What is ten more than the product of the two digits?
  • Show the sum of the digits as a picture.
  • Draw an array/set to show the product of the digits.
  • Write the numbers between the two digits.

Array Arrangement: Multiplication
Using a pair of dice, the students are to draw the product on graph paper as a rectangular array.

For example, if a 4 and a 3 are rolled, that means 4 x 3 = 12. The array is drawn as 4 rows and 3 columns, to make a rectangle. Each time a square number is drawn, let the students color it in red. Label each array with the number sentence it goes with.

Race to 1000: Addition and Number Sense
This game requires a pair of dice, base ten blocks and a place-value chart up to 1000. The goal is to be the first player to get as close as possible to 1000 without going over.

Player 1 rolls the dice and makes a number with the base ten blocks. For example, if a 5 and a 2 are rolled, the numbers 25 or 52 could be made. The blocks are placed on the place-value math and the number is recorded on scrap paper.

The next player does the same thing with his or her roll. When the play comes back to the first player, the new number is added to the first one. That means that base ten blocks will need to be regrouped to keep a running total going, along with recording the new score.

There is a lot of strategy involved in this game as decisions must be made as to how to get to 1000 quickly without going over.

High Roller:Number Sense
Each student needs a place value mat that can be written on. This is a teacher directed activity.

The goal of this activity is to build the largest number possible, whether in 10s, 100s, 1000s, or more. The teacher rolls a large die, and with every roll the students decide where to write the number on their place value mats (they cannot change it later on!).

For example, if the number is to be in the 1000s, the teacher would roll 4 times and each time a digit is written down. Do a whole class check to see who wrote the largest number. Those students each get one point. At the end of the activity, whoever has a determined amount of points could get a small prize, if you wish.

Differentiate these math games using dice by making larger numbers, smaller numbers, building the lowest number instead of the highest...get creative!

cover for Mother Goose Math - an ebook that develops math oral language skills

Do your students struggle with talking about math?  Does the academic vocabulary seem to be overwhelming?

Mother Goose Math breaks the language of math down for kids - they start by reading nursery rhymes that lead into deep mathematical discussions.  

It's fun, it's easy...and it produces measurable results.  Free samples are available here!

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