Over the recent holiday weekend, I brought out my copy of Dice Games Properly Explained by Reiner Knizia (@ReinerKnizia). I enjoy playing dice games at home with my family as well as playing dice games in class with students. Dice games often have simple rules and typically don't require of lot of material other than dice. Dice are a great mathematics manipulative that can be used with wide range of ages. Even very young students can practice subitizing numbers from 1 to 6 by reading the dots on the face of the dice. Below are a few of my favourite mathy dice games. Shut the Box
Shut the Box is a traditional game that has a long history. The game is played with two dice and a sheet with the numbers 1 to 9 listed. These numbers are covered as dice are rolled. You might see special dice trays with wooden doors on hinges for the numbers but this equipment is not necessary. There are several variations to this game. I'll explain the rules to the version I play. | |
The object of the game is to cover as many of the 9 boxes as possible. Any numbers left uncovered at the end of your turn are added together. "Shutting the box", or covering all the numbers, leads to a perfect score of 0. The player with the lowest score is the winner.
On the players turn, they roll the dice and add them together. You can then cover any boxes that are not already shut that sum to the total you rolled. For example, if I rolled a 2 and 4 my total is 6. I could cover the 6 box, the 5 and 1, the 4 and 2 or the 1, 2 and 3 boxes if they are uncovered. If I can't partition my number to cover any boxes then my turn is over and I add up any uncovered boxes to determine my score.
This is a fun game with some strategy to it. It really focuses on early addition skills as well as partitioning numbers in a variety of way. It is a great game for a lower elementary classroom.
NS Outcomes:
Primary - N04 Students will be expected to represent and describe numbers 2 to 10 in two parts, concretely and pictorially.
Mathematics 1 - N04 Students will be expected to represent and partition numbers to 20.
Mathematics 2 - N10 Students will be expected to apply mental mathematics strategies to quickly recall basic addition facts to 18 and determine related subtraction facts.
Even Minus Odd
In this game, players take turns throwing six dice. You then total all the even dice together and all the odd dice together. Subtract the odd total from the even total to get your score. Take counters from the centre of the table equal to your score. If you have a negative total, pay that number of counters to the centre (don't worry, if you don't have any counters left, you're still in the game). When all the counters are gone from the centre, the game is over and the player with the most counters wins. Start with about 10 counters in the centre or more if you have a large group playing.
NS Outcomes:
Mathematics 2 - N02 Students will be expected to demonstrate if a number (up to 100) is even or odd.
Mathematics 2 - N10 Students will be expected to apply mental mathematics strategies to quickly recall basic addition facts to 18 and determine related subtraction facts.
Game of Six
In this category game, you need only one die and
a score sheet. Players take turns rolling the die over six rounds. One your turn, roll the die and decide which category to score. Multiply the number on your die by the category value (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6). Each category can be used only once each game. For example, if you roll a six on your first turn, you could score it in category 6 and earn 6x6 = 36 points. At the end of the six rounds, each player adds up their total points. The player with the most points wins.
A sample score card. | A finished score card. |
NS Outcomes:
Mathematics 4 - N05 Students will be expected to describe and apply mental mathematics strategies, to recall basic multiplication facts to 9 × 9, and to determine related division facts.
Mathematics 5 - N03 Students will be expected to describe and apply mental mathematics strategies and number properties to recall, with fluency, answers for basic multiplication facts to 81 and related division facts.
Ninety-Nine
The focus of this game is on the order of operations for whole numbers. Five dice are rolled in this game and the player who rolls the dice calls out any number they wish between 33 and 99. This is the target number for the round. Once the dice are rolled, players create an expression using all five numbers on the dice and any operations (+, - , x, ÷). The goal is to create an expression whose value is as close as possible to the target number without going over. Divisions must work out without a remainder. Players secretly write down their expression. Once everyone has an expression (or a reasonable amount of time has passed), players reveal their expression. The player closest to the target scores a zero. All other players score the difference between their expression's value and the values that was closest (to a maximum of 5). Play as many rounds as their are players so each person can have a round setting the target.
NS Outcomes:
Mathematics 5 - N03 Students will be expected to describe and apply mental mathematics strategies and number properties to recall, with fluency, answers for basic multiplication facts to 81 and related division facts.
Mathematics 6 - N09 Students will be expected to explain and apply the order of operations, excluding exponents, with and without technology (limited to whole numbers).
A Focus on Mathematical Content
There are lots of really fun dice games in Reiner's book although some are more suited to a mathematics classroom than others. I also really like the chapter on the theory of dice and probability (chapter 3).
I think the games above are not only fun, but closely related to mathematics outcomes.
A recent post I read from Hilary Kreisberg (
@Dr_Kreisberg) discussed a protocol to assess good classroom tasks. One dimension of her protocol was to assess the mathematical content of a task and ask yourself if the task aligns well with specific grade-level standards. I think this is an important aspect to remember and not just play games that are fun, but ones that also offer meaningful mathematical practice.
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