Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mathematical Dice Games

J spent a day sick at home last week. It was a minor illness, so he was very antsy about being inside all day. He pulled out his dice to pass the time. J's great aunt had given him the Tenzi Game (affiliate link) over the summer. We haven't played it the way it's supposed to be played (getting all 10 dice to show the same number, which sounds like some super Yahtzee game), but we now have 40 dice to play with however we want. This is heaven for this math mama! Let me tell you some fun math games we've played with them and how we plan to continue to grow and develop mathematically with the dice.

We started out with each person having their own color of dice, so we can easily distinguish who rolled what.

The Bigger Number Wins!

J actually came up with this game on his own. We started out with one dice (aka. die) each. We rolled the dice, and J first counted the dots on each die and told me which die had the most dots. As we played more, I encouraged J to make his decisions quicker, without counting.

This game is great for older toddlers (who won't shove dice in orifices that they shouldn't be in) and preschoolers to understand the concept of greater than/less than.

Addition: The Bigger Number Wins!

The next game included two dice each. Again, having different color dice is wonderful for determining what numbers belong to each person.

We rolled the dice, and J added up the dots on everyone's rolls. Whoever rolled the biggest number wins! J also ranked who came in second, third, and last. We also increased the frequency of rolls and decreased the amount of time between each roll as we progressed. This challenged our 4.5 year old to make quicker decisions and encouraged more mental math rather than counting dots. In our picture example, the yellow dice wins with 11, green comes in second with 10, white is third with 9, and blue is last with 7.

For older kids: This game can be adapted to use more dice for a greater challenge.

Subtraction: The Smaller Number Wins!

We haven't played this game yet. I imagine it going something like this:

Each player gets two dice of the same color. Everyone rolls their dice and each person's smallest number rolled is subtracted from the larger number rolled. Whoever gets the smallest number wins! In our picture example above, we have a tie for first: yellow and blue both have 1. Green comes in next with 2, and white loses with 3.

For older kids: This can also be a two player game with two dice of different colors each. Pick a color to always subtract from the other color. Note that this might give you negative numbers! The smallest number still wins.

More Math Fun with Dice!

During his childhood, my husband was given a dice game by his grandpa (he has no idea of what it is called). After his old game broke, John went on to design one for himself on his 3-D printer and uploaded it to Thingiverse (to share with other nerdy people). The goal of the game is to use mathematical operations (you know, please excuse my dear Aunt Sally's loud radio - the mathematical order on how you're supposed to solve complex problems parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction from left to right) on the 5 white dice in order to get the result of the two black dice added together (so on the picture above: how would 2, 3, 3, 3, 6 make 42?). If you want more details on the game or want to print one of your own, visit the Dice Game Thingiverse page. This game is also great for older kids.

Do you have any fun math games you play with dice?


  1. Great ideas! We have a Think Fun game where several dice is rolled and the task is to call the dice that will together sum up to a given number, for example, to 10. Its modification is to grab as many dice as possible and to use any math operator to make that number.

      it's called a math magic mixer - I LOVE MINE **smiles**

  2. I love these math ideas! Thanks for sharing on the Discover & Explore linky this week - we're featuring you today :)

    1. Thanks for the feature! I've shared your link on FB and Twitter

  3. We don't really play with dice much, but maybe we should!

  4. I've been looking for this and I think I just found it on Alibaba! (no 3d printer)