Dice Addition and Subtraction Fun: Games for Teaching

Dice Addition and Subtraction Fun: Games for Teaching
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Get Ready to Rock and Roll!

Learning addition and subtraction with dice games can be effective when it is fun and involves everyone. Even with older students it is good to change up activities to allow for movement and interaction with other classmates. At the same time, the teacher wants to make the best, most effective use of the learning time and avoid mayhem. It is important to be clear about the directions for each variation of these dice games for learning addition and subtraction. Team up with a student to demonstrate a sample round of the game the class will be playing.

There are a few ways you can decide the pairs of students you are putting together to play games while learning addition and subtraction. You may want to divide by ability. Those pairs who are doing well can challenge each other. You may want to put a better student with a student who needs some extra practice and help. You may want to separate the “spirited” students so that the games remain effective and not become just a playtime. You may use this to differentiate the activity so that some groups are working on simple addition and subtraction while others are doing more complex problems.

Supplies to Die/Dice For!

There are several kinds of dice that you may want to keep on hand depending on the skills you want to reinforce when learning addition and subtraction. Large foam dice is one choice. They are quiet, too, if that is an issue you need to address. Dice with dots or dice with numbers are choices. Dice do not have to be cubes but can be polyhedron. Dice with larger number are available. Did you know that dice sets are also available with negative and positive numbers, fractions, and money on them? Another unique choice is “A die within a die”. Choose whatever works best for your situation when learning addition and subtraction.

I recommend that, no matter what kind of dice you have, keep them stored away until you use them for these games. This will make them seem special to the students. It will also keep them from disappearing.

It is also good for students to have a spiral notebook in their desks to use all year long. They can pull the notebook out and turn it to a clean page for each new game. A set of classroom calculators can be useful as well.

Let the Games Begin!

Game 1: Supplies: Two dice per pair of students, a piece of paper per student, pencil for each player, timer

Set the timer for a random time. A player rolls the dice, adds the numbers on the dice mentally then writes it on the paper. The other player repeats the process on his/her own paper. The next turn the player adds the two dice together and then adds it to the number on the paper. Play continues as each number adds on the sum of their dice to get a larger number. When the timer rings, whoever has the higher score wins. **A variation would be to have one player roll the dice and the other player add it mentally and write it down. ***Depending on the skill level of the students and the numbers on the dice, you can do this with just one die. Roll the die and add it to the number on the paper. Continue to add on until the timer rings.

Game 2: Supplies: One die per pair of students, paper, and pencils

Write a TARGET number on the board for all to see. Each player takes turns rolling the die and adding on to the sum on the paper until one player reaches the TARGET number exactly. It may take several rolls for a player to get to the target number without going over it! That makes it exciting. **A variation would be for subtraction. Start at the TARGET number and see who can roll and subtract until they reach zero exactly.

Game 3: Supplies: Large foam dice

Divide class into two teams. Have them sit across from each other on the floor with space in the middle. Each side has one die. First player in each line rolls the die when the teacher says “go!” The player who rolled the die from each team needs to add or subtract (whichever is the designated skill) and say it first to win a point for their team. Next player from each team repeats the activity until each player has had a turn. Team with the highest number of points wins. *Can be used for multiplication.

On a Roll!


Game 4

Supplies: Two dice per pair of students, calculator, paper, pencil

One player rolls the dice, mentally adds them, and writes down the sum. The same player rolls the dice again and adds it to the number on the paper. The other player checks the sum with the calculator. Switch roles. No time limit. No winner. This reinforces use of calculator and reinforces addition skills using regrouping.

Game 5

Supplies: Two dice per pair of students, paper, pencil

Write 10 different numbers on the board. Each number must be a sum possible by the kind of dice you are using. For example, if you are using dice with only numbers one through six then the highest sum you can have is twelve. Therefore, your numbers on the board should not be higher than twelve.

Students write the numbers on the top of their papers. Each player in the pair takes turns rolling the dice and mentally adding the two numbers. If the sum is one of the numbers on the top of the paper, the number gets crossed out. The player who crosses out all of their numbers first wins.

Learning Addition and Subtraction Needs to Be Fun

Since every student has an individual learning style, try as many ways as you can to expose them to the subject matter and objectives that you wish to impart. These games are just one way to make it fun while learning addition and subtraction with dice games.


  • Ideas and activities come from the author’s twenty-five years of teaching experience.