I absolutely LOVE dice games in Maths! The children really enjoy them and get lots of practice in all-important quick mental maths. Below is a list of games that I’ve either seen elsewhere and used with great success or which I’ve invented myself (primary teachers are a creative if strange lot!).
As much as possible I try and design games so that they are played for x amount of time before a winner is declared. This means you can set a timer for 3 minutes and know that everyone will be playing up until the time limit, with no children finishing early and then coming to you saying ‘I’m finished, what do I do now???’
NOTE: If you want to play these games, I HIGHLY recommend getting some soft foam dice which don’t clatter when rolled! For extra challenge later on in the year when you want the children to be working with abstract numbers rather than dots, I highly recommend buying some ten-sided dice too. They are so versatile you will definitely get your money’s worth.
Don’t Roll a 6!
In its most simple form, you roll one die again and again, adding up the total. When you roll a 6, you are bust and you have to start again from 0! How high can you get before you go bust??? This game is BRILLIANT for teaching the reason we use tallies, as children can tally their score as they go and then count up in fives to find their total when they go bust.
How I play the game: Children play in pairs. They take turns rolling the die while the other child in the pair tallies up the score on a whiteboard. Every time a 6 is rolled, the children work out their total score and store it on their whiteboard. After 1-2 minutes of play, I’ll stop the class and we’ll see what kind of high score people managed. Children can also choose to play this game competitively, where they take turns rolling the die and they add the total to their own score. After 1-2 minutes, the person with the highest total in the pair wins. This is fun as even if you are in the lead at one point of the game, all it takes is rolling a 6 at the last minute to wipe you out!
Super easy game to play, though be prepared for your classroom to get VERY loud! Children play competitively in pairs. They take turns to roll one die. They have to look at the number on the die and work out and say the number bond to 10. So if you roll a 1, the first person to shout ‘9!’ would win a point! Play for 1-2 minutes. If partners say the number at the exact same time then they both get a point.
Best played with children with similar Maths levels, so when the children come to me on the carpet fo find a partner, I’ll usually pair them off with someone I know will make for a close game.
This is a very versatile game, as you can move onto the children saying the number bond to 20. You could also have them say one more or one less than what the die shows.
Partner game. Roll two dice. Subtract the smaller number from the larger. This is how many points you get to add to your score.
TWIST: If both numbers are the same (so if say you rolled two 3s), then the first person to shout ‘MINIONS!’ wins the sum of the dice (so in this case, 6 points!). This keeps children focused on the game even when it isn’t their turn. With a class of 30 this means that you’ll hear quite a few yells of ‘MINIONS!’ as the games progress. If both children shout ‘MINIONS!’ at the exact same time, they can play one round of ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to decide the winner. Play for 2-3 minutes, then the person with the highest score wins the round.
Nearest to 99!
Based on an idea I saw on Facebook that I’ve been perfecting in my class over the last few lessons. This is a partner game or can be played in larger groups.
The goal is to get the score closest to 99 without going over and going ‘bust’. Children HAVE to take six rolls of a dice. On each roll, they can choose whether they want the number rolled to be counted as a tens number or a ones number before being added to their total. So if I rolled a 6 I could choose to have it count as sixty, or six.
My children love this game and it’s great for teaching them estimation and getting them thinking about what they might roll next and trying to come up with a strategy. It’s great fun when you’re playing and you’re on 94 BUT you still have 2 more rolls to have to take! Can you keep your score under 99 or will you go bust???
SPECIAL RULE: Once per game, a child is allowed to re-roll one die. This adds a bit of tension when you get near the end of the game as if you are on 97 you might roll a 3 and go bust, so you re-roll and hope for a 1 or 2!
NOTE: If by some chance the game ends and both children have landed on the exact same number or gone bust at the same time, have them roll a die to decide the game. Highest score takes the win!
EXTENSION: Have the children start at 99 and they have to subtract the numbers they roll. If they go below 0 they are bust!
The most complex game that takes longer to teach, but due to the football connection it’s very popular! Great for adding together 3 single-digit numbers. Full idea here.
TOP TIP 1: With every dice game, model it on the smartboard at the front of class, playing against one of the children. Do this once or twice then get the children playing in pairs for maximum engagement.
TOP TIP 2: Typically I have children play a dice game for 2-3 minutes, then I’ll say ‘partner who is nearest to me, please come and stand in front of me’. Whilst half the class assembles on the carpet in front of me, the other half of the class who are sat at tables clean off their whiteboards and get ready for a new partner. When the standing partners are all gathered in front of me, they are sent off to choose a different partner for the next round of the game. Next time round I’ll say ‘partner who is furthest from me, please come and stand in front of me’. This gives the other half of the class the chance to walk and find a new partner.
TOP TIP 3: With any competitive game, I always make the children turn to their partner and say ‘good game!’ after they have played a round with them. When I am modelling games I always make a big deal of the fact that the games are for fun, no-one is going to get a million pounds if they win or lose, so let’s enjoy ourselves and be happy playing a fun game!
TOP TIP 3: Have children use resources to support them if needed. Number lines, rulers, hundred squares, counters, number bond reference sheets, etc.
TOP TIP 4: If you have an odd number of pupils, don’t worry. Have one pupil per round become a ‘little teacher’ and set them the job of patrolling the classroom and watching children playing. They are allowed to choose one pair who are playing well together and showing good manners and sportsmanship to receive a reward/cheer/team point. This helps keep the rest of the class on-task. In fact, I like this monitor system so much I will sometimes remove one pair per round from playing in order to have them do some ‘patrolling’ for me.