Very few children can resist a game with dice. From the quest for doubles in Monopoly (but don’t roll three in a row or you go to jail!) to the cupful of dice in Yahtzee, to the pop-o-matic fun of Trouble, there’s something about dice rolling that gives kids a sense of control over their own destiny (as opposed to Sorry! or Candy Land, in which players are at the mercy of whatever card comes next). Luckily for parents and teachers, this affinity for dice can be used to create fun math enrichment games that can help kids learn as they roll.
Children may scoff at math enrichment, if they think it’s just more work. That’s why gamification is so useful: The learning is packaged as a game for kids to play and win rather than math they are forced to master. Using dice—the components of the board games they like to play—for math activities only reinforces that concept of fun.
The everyday six-sided dice that comes with most board games have one small drawback: They only go to 6. This is fine for most math enrichment games, but more unique dice are available. A few decades ago, Dungeons and Dragons introduced 8, 10, 12, and 20-sided dice to the gaming world, and they can be purchased online or at game stores without having to buy a whole D&D set. The 10-siders are especially good for math activities, as a pair can generate any two-digit number. Furthermore, if you prefer regular dice cubes but are looking for more number options, special math dice can be found at education stores and online.
This Is How We Roll
Here are just a few of the many math activities and games that you can enjoy with your children:
- Multiplication dice: The simple premise: Roll dice to generate a first number (either by adding the dice together or placing them side by side), roll more dice to get a second number, and multiply the results. In theory, this isn’t much different from the multiplication problems that students encounter at school except for one change: They create the numbers, via dice rolling, instead of a dreary worksheet telling them what they should multiply. And this math enrichment isn’t limited to multiplication: Addition, subtraction, and division dice are all suitable options, as well as creating fractions with the dice instead of whole numbers.
- Dice race: Roll two dice 20 times (though any number of dice and/or rolls is possible), graph the results of how many times each number came up, and see which number wins. This is a great way to demonstrate probability in the guise of a race.
- Pig: With two dice, the goal of Pig is to reach 100. On their turn, players roll dice and add the result. They can keep rolling, but if they roll a 1, their turn ends and they lose all the points on that turn. If they roll snake eyes (two 1s), they lose all their points for the game.
- Number target: Add the total of three or more dice to provide a target number. Then, roll the dice again, and using whatever functions possible, form an equation with those numbers that equal or come closest to the target.
- Yahtzee: Many great, purely dice-based games are on the market, but Yahtzee is still a math enrichment classic that teaches probability and addition. If you really want to go old-school, look for Kismet—a Yahtzee clone that adds more math and colored pips to the mix.
Playing with dice, particularly with strange-sided dice is a fun, quick way to practice an array of math skills. What is your child’s favorite game that uses dice?