Dice Play that Teaches Kids Numeracy

Dice Play for NumeracyI am a passionate believer in play as the best method for teaching young children.  And sometimes, the kids teach me a little something through play as well!

Part of a play-based learning philosophy is having materials that will invite the child to play with concepts and ideas.  So, being the nut for play and learning that I am, I have shelves and drawers and pockets full of these kinds of materials.  A simple material that’s been getting some increased attention from my kids lately is a container full of dice.

I came upon my preschooler playing with the dice recently and realized he had created his own game that was perfect play-based practice for numeracy skills.

Tossing the dice, he noticed a die with the numerals 1-6.  If that numeral matched the number of dots on one of the traditional dice, then….. “YES!” he would shout.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!  (“Counting and recognizing numerals”, I ticked off in my mental checklist of foundational math skills.)


He invited me to play and we alternated between this version and another, using only dotted dice.  After a few wins with the doubles, I suggested we count “halfsies” as a win as well.  I showed him that just as rolling a six and a six was doubles because they had the same number of dots, “halfsies” was when one die had half as many dots as the other — like a three and a six.  It can be a complicated concept as a whole, but with dice, the way the dots are arranged make it quite simple to visually see the “halfsies” rolls, and so he jumped right in.  (“A foundation for fractions and division”, I added to my checklist as we continued to play.)

For all the excitement over each win, I couldn’t tell you who won.  Probably because we didn’t keep score.  Tally mark score keeping would have been another great box to check on my mental list, but that wasn’t the style of his play.  We were already working in some great skills — and we were having fun!

Other ways you could play with dice to build basic math skills:

Battle: Each player rolls a die.  The one with the higher number wins the battle.  (Counting, Greater than/Less than)  *Have each player use two dice if you want to challenge kids to count higher or to build foundational addition skills.

7-11 Swap!: This may be where my son’s idea came from.  Our family plays this fun dice game on New Year’s Eve.  (Find the instructions in this post.)  The kids always have a blast!  Little do they realize they’re working on counting and addition all the while!

Board Games: Any board game using dice and squares is a great way to playfully work on one-to-one counting (one number counted aloud = one spot on the board).  Play games like Chutes and Ladders or build your own game with dice, a path  with spaces for counting, and whatever end goal and details you and your child want to create!

What’s your favorite way to play with dice and numeracy?



Filed under Learning through Play and Experience

4 Responses to Dice Play that Teaches Kids Numeracy

  1. Susan

    I’m going to cheat with my comment & share a domino game we call “Too Greedy.” You pick the seven dominoes that are double blank, blank/one, blank/two…all the way to blank/six and turn them over. The first player turns the dominoes right side up, one by one, amassing points until the double blank is turned over. At this point everyone says, “Too Greedy!!!!” and all points are lost. After turning over the first domino, the player can stop at any point during their turn once they feel the risk of turning over the double blank is too high. However if your kid is like my 4-year-old, the whole point of her turn is to get the double blank and yell “Too Greedy!” We have lots of fun with this simple game & it involves counting, number identification, adding & risk awareness.

  2. Pingback: Dice Play that Teaches Kids Numeracy | TPS Lower School Parents Blog

  3. Great suggestions for games learning numbers! Might have to try these ideas with one of my preschool classes!

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