The Dice Race

This game has been used with great results at the University of Toronto’s Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School. It was introduced to me by Lab School Teachers – Julie Comay and Carol Stephenson in my OISE math course in the summer of 2011*. It has been modified a little to work in a Montessori classroom and it is now a standard part of the classroom, ready to take from the shelf when the children wish to use it.

(*The Early Learning in Mathematics course was taught by Dr. Joan Moss and Bev Caswell with support from the Robertson Program for Inquiry-Based Teaching in Mathematics.)

What is the game?

On a piece of grid paper 6 squares wide by 10 squares tall, the numbers 1 – 6 are written below each of the squares at the bottom of the page. When a child rolls the die into the basket, the number rolled is entered in the first square above that number. The first number to be rolled 10 times wins the game.

What can children get from playing the game?

  1. Subitizing – quickly recognizing number, i.e., that 4 dots on the die make the number 4.
  2. Practice writing numbers – when a number is rolled, the child writes that number in the square.
  3. Probability – when the child sees that one number has been rolled more than the others, the child understands that the number in the lead is likely to win. The child tends to be very surprised if the same number is rolled several times in a row.
  4. Graphing – the child sees how to represent which number is winning. The child essentially learns to read a graph by doing this.
  5. Addition and subtraction – the child sees how many squares are left to fill. Sometimes a child will laugh when he/she finds that “4 needs 4 more!” or “3 needs 3 more”.
  6. It is fun! Children start to cheer for certain numbers and often want to play again to see if a different number or their favourite number will the following time.
  7. No one loses! In contrast to many games, it is the numbers and not the children who win and lose.

This is a great addition to a Montessori classroom, since it is a hands-on way to enjoy a broad exposure to mathematical concepts. Children go beyond number sense into another strand of the mathematics curriculum – data management and probability – areas not generally covered within the Montessori mathematics curriculum for this age.

Teri Courchene


About Teri Courchene

Instructor at U of T School of Continuing Studies, Math tutor. Education: CSC, MEd (OISE), AMI Montessori Diploma (FME), MA Economics (Queen's), BA Economics (UWO)
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