11th June 2004 at 01:00
Dice are often used when teaching probability at key stage 2, but they are also useful for problem-solving games. I regularly introduce children to the following games as an extension activity. First I remind pupils that the traditional numbering system used on dice has opposite faces equal to seven. The number pairs for opposite faces are usually 1 and 6, 2 and 5, and 3 and 4. Then I give them some tasks. Here are a few examples:

* Looking down from above at these dice (figure 1), how many spots are touching the table?

* With four dice in this arrangement (figure 2), what is the total number of spots hidden from view? (How many sides are out of sight?)

* Ask the children to make a tower with four dice. Can all four sides of the tower be made to total the same number? (Yes, 14. They will have to try a different arrangement from figure 3.) Can one side of the tower be made to total twice as much as the opposite side? (No.) Can one side total three times the opposite side? (Yes, 7 and 21.) Ask the same questions with towers of three or five dice.

* Play this game in pairs. Children take turns to roll two dice. They work out the score each time by adding the two numbers shown, then finding the difference and finally by calculating the product (figure 4). Record the totals. Keep adding the scores together - the winner is the first to reach 200.

John Davis

Supply teacher, St Barnabas Primary School, South Gloucestershire

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