school year cheat sheet

practicing math facts with crazy, mixed-up dice: math games for kids

Jan 19, 2012 // 10 comments // Categories: computation, math // Tags: , , , , , , .

Somehow we have ended up with a ton of wild and crazy dice in our house.

Some are huge.

Some are teeny.

Some are old; some are brand, spankin’ new.

Some have numerals and some have dots.

Some are even double-dice–a big die with a mini die inside.

And we had one die with an addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division sign on each side.   One, that is, until I made a second using one of our cheapo foam blocks from the dollar bins.  A Sharpie and a foam block, and we were set–much like the die we made for our Ghost Bingo back in the fall.

Since we’re continually working on good, ole-fashioned math facts over here (one kiddo reluctantly and another enthusiastically), I tried to mix it up a little the other day and utilize some of our oh-so-crazy dice for some fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Practicing Math Facts with Mixed-up Dice: Sounds simple because it is. All we had were a few silly dice, and a lot of sneaky, fun practice was had.


two of our cra-zeeee dice, happy to be found and used for some math-fact practice

It was right after Maddy and Owen had finished their homework, on an afternoon when neither had very much to do.

Cora was busy painting, not to be interrupted, so I said, Wow. We have a ton of dice here. (I had just started organizing a supply box in the work room.)  Let’s use them for a little game. Who’s up for it?

Owen–without hesitation–was up for it, and Maddy took some convincing.  But because she was the one I was thinking about who could benefit from the extra mathy-math–fun, I pushed a bit: Oh, Maddy, Maddy.  This game I’m thinking of is CRAAAA-ZY fun.  She was in.


Owen rolled a 6 + 2.

Very quickly, I made the extra die with the process signs.  Then I said, Awesome. Here’s the deal: We’re going to start out by taking turns choosing two dice. We’ll roll the dice and then roll this die (pointing to the sign one).  Then you can decide what order you want to put your numbers and you can figure out the answer to the problem. Like this. . . 

I chose two of the red dice, and I rolled them.

Owen loved, loved, loved the crazy dice.  And why wouldn’t he?

A six and a two, I said.  And then I rolled the green die I made.  A plus sign! So it doesn’t matter which order I put my numbers, because the answer will be the same, but I’m going to create my problem like this: 6 + 2.  And the answer is eight. Yay! Simple. Who’s first?

Owen grabbed two dice and rolled them. And then he rolled the green die. And very quickly, he declared the problem and gave us the answer.  I can’t even remember what it was, it all happened so quickly.

And then he chose the crazy double dice and added those numbers together and used that as his second number. It’s fun for him, and it comes so easily.  It amazes me because my brain is not programmed that way; I have to move more slowly, and I’m thirty years older than he.

By that time, Maddy was just about ready to take off when I said, Okay Maddy, here you go. You do your own, and Owen will do his own.  No contests, no stress.  Just choose two dice, roll ‘em, and then roll to see if you’ll be subtracting, adding, or multiplying. Since you’ve started multiplication at school, you get to try that with this game.

She and I worked together a little more closely for the first few times, and soon she and Owen decided to morph the game into a seriously insane-combo game where they rolled three number dice and the two sign dice and worked together to figure out the answer.

It was cool.

And it was quick, and it was a fun–easy–way to throw in a little, teeny bit of math fact practice after homework was finished, before dinner started, and before we moved into the next part of our day.

Need more quickie, on the fly math games for kids? Check out:

Happy counting! (. . . And all that other fun math stuff!)

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  1. oh! fun! you know i’m always up for tricking, i mean, practicing math facts with my little reluctant learner! my sil gave us shut the box for xmas which is also great for practing math facts up to 12! we are all addicted to it over here–you don’t even need the game per say, you can just use your dice and a piece of paper!

    • Dana! I have to check out Shut the Box! I’ll google it–but who makes it? Thanks for writing–and can we PLEASE meet up sometime at the library? We’re so close!!

  2. Melissa and Doug of course have a version! Send me an email about the library! I take pity on you since Olney doesn’t have a library anymore :(

    • COME ON. No they don’t. And if they do, I better find it and try it out!! Thanks, Dana. I will def send you an email abt the library, my friend. As long as we can hit that yummy gourmet shop for crepes afterward. . .

  3. First: I can’t believe I haven’t run across dice like this before! The closest I came was some dice given to me by a book publisher with decimals on them (for simulating the stock market or something, lol)…

    Second: I love this! A really nice aspect of this is the randomness. Too many worksheets and textbooks practice the same skill over and over (100 subtraction problems in a row!) that its not only boring but also hinders learning one important skill. They’re going to have to be comfortable with switching their brains from add to subtract to multiply as the math gets more complicated and this helps practice that very neglected skill beforehand. Nice!

    • Jerimi! Interesting–I cannot remember where we found these crazy dice. . . a fair? free in a birthday goodie bag? no idea. .. . and THANK YOU for your kind words! I appreciate you reading and sharing your expertise with us!! Cheers!


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