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Numbers sense

How you can help at home: This number-sense game played with dice helps your first grader build math concepts such as greater than and less than.

By Nicola Salvatico, Consulting Teacher

This game reinforces number sense, one-to-one correspondence, graphing, the concepts of "greater" and "less than," and simple addition.

First grade is a year of problem solving, which can be done cooperatively in a group or individually. It is important that the first grader becomes a student who is willing to take a risk in a non-threatening environment to further her learning.

What you'll need:

  • Two dice-preferably two different colors
  • Graph paper with one-inch squares
  • Pencil or crayon
  • Highlighter

Here's how to do it

Your child can play this game on her own, with you or in a group. Ask your child to roll the dice. Have her add the two dice together and write the two numbers and the total (sum) on the piece of paper. Using graph paper with big squares will keep the number sentences organized (For example: 2 + 3= 5).

Next, you roll your turn and do the same. The person who gets the highest number wins. That person can highlight her number sentence with a yellow highlighter or crayon to show the win. But, if someone rolls "Alien Eyes," or 1 and 1, then that person is automatically out and must begin again.

Extension of the game

Tally the amount of wins each player gets to keep a running total. (But if one gets alien eyes, the player's tally goes to zero.) Graph the sums for each person as you take a turn; then see the overall "greater than" or "less than" number. (For example: If I roll a total of five, then I can color in five squares on my graph. Continue that pattern until the first person to fill her entire graph is finished).

Nicola Salvatico has taught both kindergarten and first grade and is currently teaching first grade. She received the Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year award in 2005 and was awarded the USA Today's 2005 All-USA Teacher Team Award for her exemplary work at General Wayne Elementary School in Pennsylvania. She holds her certificate in early literacy as well as a master's degree in multicultural education.

Comments from readers

"That actually sounds like a great idea. I have 2 sons, my oldest is good with reading but his math needs help. And my youngest son has a slight learning disability how can I get the both of them to remeber the addition and subtraction signs and know what they mean"
"Thank you for the game. My students really liked it."
"This sounds like a really good game to motivate a child in learning, I am going to try this. Thanks Alot"