Maths Games With Dice

It took a lot of practice over a couple of years before the boys could identify the number of spots on the dice without counting them.

Harry playing Dice Fury.
Harry playing Dice Fury.

Playing With Dice

Teddy and Harry have always enjoyed dice games. Teddy in particular enjoys this kind of organised play. When he was about three or four, he made up a game called ‘traffic jam’ whereby he would line up all his cars and roll the dice. He would then move each car along this number of invisible places along the sofa or the kitchen floor. The spaces he moved the cars were not equally measured but he seemed to know where they should all go. This game would take him all over the house.

We have continued to play dice games as a family and also as a way to practise and develop maths skills. Using dice brings a fun and playful element to developing maths skills and requires very little resources. If you want to know more about maths games beyond dice then be sure to check out my board and table top games blog post.

Developing Maths Skills

Combining maths and dice.
Combining maths and dice.

Here are some basic skills you can support your child in developing using a couple of dice.

  • Counting
  • Number order – roll multiple dice and place the numbers in the correct order. If you have six dice, continue to roll them until you have all the numbers 1 – 6.
  • Recognising odd and even numbers – roll multiple dice and place them into two groups showing odd and even numbers.
  • Addition – use two dice and add the numbers together.
  • Subtraction - using two dice, subtract the lowest number from the higher number.
  • Multiplication – choose one number to multiply the value of the die by. For example: 10. Roll the dice and practice multiplying each number by 10.

Depending on your child’s ability you may also invite them to write down the equations they are practising. For example, writing 2 + 6 = 8 whilst practising addition.

Counting The Spots

It takes time to just know the dice.
It takes time to just know the dice.

It took a lot of practice over a couple of years before the boys could identify the number of spots on the dice without counting them. They played games such as snakes and ladders, over and over again. Games like this are great for practising one to one correspondence, (Activity 1) moving a playing piece one space according to the number on the die.

We really enjoy playing games as a family, where the focus is to enjoy spending time together as a family. Improving our maths skills is a bonus!

At this point we didn’t really play with any rules. Teddy and Harry would just roll the die and move their playing piece, not even taking turns but playing alongside one another.

Later, when they were beginning to add the value of two dice together, they continued to count the spots. We encouraged them to begin with the number which had the largest value. For example, instead of 2 +6, try 6 + 2.

Make Your Own Dice
Making paper dice is a great activity.
Making paper dice is a great activity.

Sometimes you may want to play with dice using numbers other then 1 – 6! There are a few different ways you can make your own dice and play with the different numbers and maths operations.

  • Print this dice template (Activity 4) onto card. Cut out the template and fold to make a cube shape.
  • Using air-dry clay, make a small cube shape. Use a stick to prick different number of dots on the sides.
  • Write different numbers on the side of a cube shaped box.

You can be creative in making the dice by writing larger numbers or different operations such as +, -, x. Try using stickers or drawing spots.

Different Shapes & More Numbers
The boys love these 'funny' looking dice.
The boys love these 'funny' looking dice.

Another tip if you are looking for some interesting dice with numbers other then 1 – 6 is to look at sets used to play Dungeons and Dragons. This is an imaginative role-playing game in which a story is decided by the roll of the dice. We have not actually played dungeons and dragons yet but enjoy using the different shaped dice and playing with the different numbers.

Beetle Game

Playing the beetle game.
Playing the beetle game.

This is good for young children who are beginning to play games and enjoy drawing. Each player will need a piece of paper and a pencil. Take it in turns to roll the die and draw the body part as corresponds to the number rolled. A player has to roll a number one to draw the body before they can draw the other body parts.

  1. = body
  2. = two wings
  3. = six legs
  4. = head
  5. = two antenna
  6. = two eyes

Pig Game

Teddy won our latest game of Pig.
Teddy won our latest game of Pig.

This is a fun and simple game although I have no idea why it’s called Pig! You need at least two players, one dice, paper and a pen to keep score.

The first player rolls the die as many times as they wish, each time adding the roll results to a running total. For example, if you roll a 5, followed by a 6, your total will be 11. The player can continue to roll the dice or keep the total they have so far. If the player rolls the number 1 however, the total from that round is wiped clean.

The first player to reach a total of 50 wins the game.

Bingo Game

Always a simple favourite that they can play without me.
Always a simple favourite that they can play without me.

This is a good game which can also be adapted for different concepts. Divide a piece of A4 paper into 6 – 10 boxes depending on the ability of the child you are working with. Write different numbers in the boxes. When your child rolls the die, they can cover the corresponding number in one of the boxes.

For older children you can use a combination of dice and larger numbers. For example, use two dice and write numbers 1 – 12 in the boxes. I also wrote a whole post about literacy games that you should check out.

Family Dice Games

Teddy has fallen in love with backgammon.
Teddy has fallen in love with backgammon.

We really enjoy playing games as a family, where the focus is to enjoy spending time together as a family. Improving our maths skills is a bonus!

Here are some of our favourite dice games:

  1. Sum swamp – this game is great for younger children aged 4 – 6 developing a range of different maths skills.
  2. Parcheesi – a game to develop counting skills. The boys have played this hundreds of times and have even made up some of their own rules.
  3. Qwixx – this game helps develop an understanding of statistics.
  4. Dice Fury – currently our favourite dice game! Using 6 dice, players are set different challenges developing a range of different maths skills.
  5. Rummikub Dice – matching colour and number order.
  6. Genius Square – a fun logic game introducing coordinates.
  7. Yahtzee – great for matching numbers and practising different operations.
  8. Backgammon – the boys have just learnt how to play backgammon and are currently enjoying this game of strategy.

Explore these great activities related to maths and fun!

Year One
Inspired By Shapes

Inspired By Shapes picture.

Year Three
Building Bridges

Building Bridges picture.

Year Two
Properties Of Materials

Literacy picture.

Reception
Mathematics

Mathematics picture.