Idea 232: Football Maths (Adding 3 single-digit numbers)

This is an activity I invented that my class LOVED and which really helped them work on their mental addition, in particular by finding out which is the easiest and fastest way to add 3 single-digit numbers together (a Year 2 curriculum objective). It works very well when linked with these FREE resources I made.

The activity is football-themed, which is nice to link to whatever football tournament is going on at the moment. Both girls and boys equally loved playing this game in my class.

This activity requires three dice per pair you intend to have playing the game. I bought a box of sponge dice ages ago and that was plenty for me.


I modelled this game on my smartboard first for a few rounds (me vs a pupil) then set the children off to play this game in pairs independently, marking scores on a whiteboard.



Round 1: Players take it in turns to roll three dice and add up their total. The person with the highest number ‘wins the ball’. If you get the exact same score, both players roll again.

Player 1 rolls:


Player 2 rolls:


Player 1 has a higher total so wins the ball.


Round 2: The player who won the ball is on the attack and now ‘shoots’. They roll three dice and find out their total.


The other player is on the defence and rolls three dice and gets their total. If the attacker’s total is higher, they’ve scored a goal! If the defender has a higher total, their goalkeeper saved it and there is no goal.


The ball now goes back in the middle and the process starts over again with players rolling to win the ball once more.


After some experimentation, giving the children 4 minutes for a ‘match’ was about right to let them have enough rounds to get scores ranging from 0-0 up to about 3-1.

A great thing with this activity is that once learned you can have children go back and play this game as a quick warmer or further challenge activity. The fact it has a set time limit makes it easy to schedule into your lesson as you know exactly how long it will take.

IMPORTANT: I introduced a rule straightaway that if the other player shouts out your total before you’ve had a chance to add it up, you AUTOMATICALLY win that round. This was needed so that children who are quicker with mental maths don’t try and ‘take over’ the game.

TIP: Really REALLY take this opportunity to emphasise sportsmanship. After every match finishes, make the pairs shake hands and say ‘good game’ before moving on. Children play with lots of different classmates and so this game can help build a warm class atmosphere.

TIP: Find a video of some great goals on YouTube and pretend that this is what some of the goals they scored in the game were like.

EXTENSION: Once your children get competent with this game you can introduce a new rule where once per game (or round) they are allowed to re-roll one dice. This makes the game a bit more strategic. Will they use a re-roll to try and win the ball? Is it worth it? Are the totals close enough that one re-roll could change the result?

EXTENSION: Have the children discuss what is the highest and lowest total they could make with their three dice. How many ways can they make these totals?

FOR LESS CONFIDENT LEARNERS: I set up a ‘football training ground’ on the carpet where children could come and practise rolling dice and finding the total by themselves without being in a competitive match. In some cases, I suggested pairs should begin with rolling only two dice and finding the total before moving up to three dice.

FOR MORE CONFIDENT LEARNERS: Give four dice a try! Do you have any of your own rules you want to add in?


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