Play this! Math-based Dice Games for Short Attention Spans

When the HBO series The Wire came out, I binge-watched the series. By season 4, I was in deep with these characters. One of the Baltimore cops, Prez, leaves the force and becomes a teacher in one of the inner city public middle schools. By episode 7, he is able to pique interest in learning some basic probability through playing the dice game Craps. The kids gained math skills in class playing Craps, and then were financially rewarded when they took their newly honed math skills out into their neighborhood Craps game. These were the scenes that were playing out in my head when I was in the store, staring at the wall of games, searching for a math game that wouldn’t feel like a math game. I needed something far more basic than using dice for Craps, and my eye went two these two little dice games that are fast-paced, adaptable, and easy to play, Math Dice and Math Dice Jr.


For all ages.

The game set comes with two 12-sided Target dice, 3 regular 6-sided Scoring dice, and a little bag to house the dice when you are not playing. That’s it, super basic.

To Play

  1. Roll both of the 12-sided Target dice and multiply together the two numbers you got from the roll. This number becomes the target number.
  2. Then roll the three 6-sided Scoring dice. These will be the numbers you have to work with in order to get closest to or equal to the target number.
  3. The first player, using the numbers dictated by the Scoring dice, must now create an equation to calculate the closest number possible to the Target Number (above or below the Target Number is fine) or get exactly the Target Number (if possible).
  4. To create your equation, use each Scoring number only once. But each number can be used in any combination of operations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, powers (squaring and cubing), and roots (square roots and cube roots). The order of operation does not matter as long as you can get close to the target number.
  5. Once you state your first equation to get close to the target number, the other players get 15 seconds to come up with a different equation that gets even closer to the target number than the first player. Whoever gets closest to the target number or hits the target number wins the point.
  6. The player with the most points wins!

Life Hack: Customize game play to meet your needs

If competitive play stresses you out, or other family members, you can relax the rules and still have fun playing this game. You can do this by simplifying the game to suit more limited math needs. Here are some ways you can customize the game:

  1. To make the game less mathematically difficult you can roll only one if the Target dice to get a target number between 1-12.
  2. You could still use the two Target dice, but instead of multiplying the numbers together, you can add them together to get numbers in the range of 2-24.
  3. You can throw competition out the window and create a cooperative game where everyone works together to come up with an equation that gets closest to the target number.
  4. Don’t use the time constraints and allow players to use scratch paper instead of doing mental math.

Cheapo Life Hack

If you don’t want to invest in the game before trying it out at home, here’s a DIY version to test drive with your family. Most of us have three regular 6-sided dice at home, gather those together from your old Monopoly and Clue board games. Write numbers down from 1-12 twice on little sheets of paper and put them into a hat or bag or any kind of containment unit that allows you to shake up the contents without seeing what is on the paper. Use this paper number draw to get your target number instead of using the two fancy 12-sided dice.

Math Dice Jr.

Math Dice Jr. is for the younger set, rated for ages 6 and over. In this version of Math Dice, the dice that come with the game are twice the size of regular dice for easier handling and there is a little mini scoring track with game tokens that comes with the game.

To Play

  1. Each player chooses a game token to use on the score track.
  2. Each player places their token on the starting line of the scoring track.
  3. Roll the 12-sided Target die and the five  6-sided Scoring Dice.
  4. Combine the Scoring numbers from the Scoring dice rolled to create an equation that matches the Target number exactly using addition or subtraction. The players can use as many of the score dice numbers as they wish but can only use the number once. Players can also use a single scoring number by itself if the roll matches the target number exactly.
  5. When a player sees a way to hit the target number, the player calls out “Math Dice” and verbally states their equation to the group.
  6. That turn continues as other players look at the remaining (unused dice) scoring numbers and call out “Math Dice” if they find other ways to add or subtract their way to the target number.
  7. When all the Scoring Dice have been used or there are no more ways to reach the target number, the round is over.
  8. Players score one point for each die they use in the round. Players advance their tokens on the scoring track one square per point earned.
  9. First player to reach the finish line on the scoring track wins!

Hey! There are two Finish Lines on the Scoring Track…

Yes! This is one of the many ways you can customize game play to suit your time/ attention span needs. If you only have a little bit of time, use the shorter scoring track. Like the Math Dice Sr. game, you can also play this game cooperatively, working together to get to the target number advancing to the Finish Line as a team. If you have little math hot shots, you can try using multiplication as well as addition and subtraction in creating the equations using the Scoring dice.

The most important thing about these two games is to Have Fun!! Happy mathing!


Written By
More from Anouck Iyer
Updated! Inclusive Halloween
*This is an updated post, originally published 10/2018.  The Great Pumpkin is...
Read More
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.