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New Games Book by Bob Albrecht— Play Together, Learn Together : Roll, Pick, and Add Dice Games

Watch a first grade student playing a game that involves rolling dice. Probably you can look at the outcome of rolling a pair of dice and immediately say the total. The first grader may need to carefully count one die and then keep going with the second. The transition to the level of expertise you have comes from practice. People who advocate use of games in math education want the practice to be fun and to include additional learning activities.

For example, suppose only one die is rolled, and it comes out 4. Is it likely that, when a second die is rolled and added to the first, the total will be 11 or higher? (This is a tricky question—you want to challenge the child.) That is certainly a challenging question to most first graders. Answering it takes some understanding of the number line and some practice at doing mental arithmetic.

Suppose the first die is a 4. At what age might you expect an average child to make a correct statement about the likelihood of the second die producing a total of 6 or more? Wow! Now we are into probability.

As you can see, a pair of dice is a powerful and fun aid to learning by extensive practice, trial and error, and “figuring it out.” Use of still more dice (perhaps a small handful) can give still more practice in rapid mental addition.

History of Dice

The history of dice likely predates the invention of reading and writing (Way, 3/16/2012). Quoting from this article:

Dice, as we know it, has a long and interesting history. In 400 BC, the Greek poet Sophocles claimed that dice were invented by the Greeks; this has yet to be proven. There is evidence of dice in Egyptian tombs dating as far back as 2,000 BC, but, thanks to archaeological digs, we are able to place them back even further to 6,000 BC.

Contrast this with the history of computer games that goes back to about 1940 (National Museum of Play, 2016). While my friend Bob Albrecht’s writing about and studying the use of games in education does not go back quite that far, he has certainly contributed to this field for a very long time.

Bob Albrecht has emphasized “play together, learn together” throughout his writing and gaming career. His latest book is Play Together, Learn Together: Roll, Pick, and Add Dice Games (Albrecht & Firedrake, 4/15/2016). Like many of his writings, this book is available free on the Web. The book is written for elementary school teachers and parents of children at these grade levels.

Transfer of Learning

The step-by-step directions in Albrecht’s book lead the reader through a wide variety of dice-based games and challenging arithmetic ideas. Children playing together with other children or with adults can learn a great deal of math—especially if a knowledgeable adult guides them.

The last sentence above is a key idea. Transfer of learning has been a hot topic in education for many years (Moursund, 2014). We don’t want teachers to spend a lot of time having students memorize how to solve one particular type of problem. We want students to be able to recognize similar problems, pose problems, and transfer their school learning into these other problem settings. The games that Bob Albrecht covers in his books lend themselves to transfer of learning when presented and supervised by a knowledgeable, skillful teacher or parent.

One of my own new books, Learning Problem-solving Strategies Through the Use of Games: A Guide for Teachers and Parents, teaches transfer of learning through a variety of games (Moursund, 1/20/2016). This free IAE book makes use of both non-computer games and computer games.

Two key concepts from the book are:

  1. Near transfer. This is when a “new” problem is so similar to a problem you have already studied that immediate transfer of learning occurs with little or no thought. The problem of tying your shoes with a bowknot provides an excellent example of near transfer.
  2. Far transfer. This requires understanding of the strategy one wants to transfer plus a lot of practice in doing this type of transfer in a variety of problem situations. Breaking a big problem into smaller, more manageable problems provides an excellent example.

What You Can Do

Play games with your students at school and children at home. As you play a game with a beginner, you will notice strategies or ways to think about the tasks involved in playing well. A beginner does not know these things. Point them out in a manner that is not threatening but encourages learning the game and general ideas about strategies.  Tie this new teaching and learning in with other problems the child has encountered in other settings.

References and Resources

Albrecht, R., & Firedrake, G. (4/15/2016). Play together, learn together: Roll, pick, and add dice games. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Retrieved 4/30/2016 from

Albrecht, R., & Moursund, D. (2016). Robert Albrecht. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 4/30/2016 from The section includes other free books by Albrecht.

Moursund, D. (1/20/2016). Learning problem-solving strategies through the use of games: A guide for teachers and parents. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Microsoft Word document available at PDF document available at

Moursund, D. (2014). Transfer of learning. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 4/30/2016 from

National Museum of Play (2016). Video game history timeline. Retrieved 4/30 2016 from

Way, G. (3/16/2012). The game of dice has a long, interesting history. Retrieved4/30/2016 from

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Saturday, 17 April 2021

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