Early learning exercises in maths

The three R’s 

It was my goal to teach through the three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic. We approached these fields of learning through memory cards, word building games, dice, games we invented, hands-on materials and many other everyday things. This core part of our work was our morning practice. I will list some of these ways we used over the next few posts. In this post, I’m starting off with dice throwing.

Dice Throwing 

When starting out learning mathematics, patterns can help recall numbers.

The dice patterns help young children to remember the number the shape depicts.

At first, we just started off with one dice. 

The dice patterns were helpful with visual numerical imagery. For instance, three spots before the children’s eyes led them to visualise three before recognising a number 3. But once connected, the numbers were irreversibly etched into the children’s minds.

The children got used to the patterns on the dice since I would say the numbers.

Once the children could say the number themselves, I then moved onto two dice.

Throwing two dice is a fun game for adding and subtraction.

1 Adding up

We threw the two dice. Starting off with any one of the numbers, we would then count up with the other number. So for instance, if we threw a 3 and a 2, we would start off on the 3, and then count up: 4, 5. Then we could reverse it and start off with the 2 and count up: 3, 4, 5.

By continually doing these exercises, the children soon pick up this counting game.

2 Subtracting

Once the children got the hang of the first game, we then had a go at subtracting the numbers. After throwing the two dice, we took the lower amount and then counted up to the higher number. So, if we threw a 5 and a 2, we would start from the 2 and count up: 3, 4, 5. (Putting up fingers as we counted a helped a lot with the visualisation of numbers in this exercise)

Counting up to subtract?

Now, this may seem a bit strange, counting up for subtracting, but as you are putting your fingers up from the number 2, you will have three fingers raised. So you can say 5 take 2 is 3 – waving three fingers before your child’s eyes.

 This game may take a bit of getting used to, but you will be surprised at how quickly the children start to get used to the numbers.

We always kept the exercises fun and sometimes used treats, like sultanas or raisins,  to bring an extra bit of excitement.

Using 3 dice

Once the children became proficient at subtracting these numbers, we then progressed onto using thee dice.

We had bought three large dice for this, and it was great fun.  

Rolling three dice was used in a few ways.

  1. We added up all three numbers
  2. We would add up two numbers and then take the third number away
  3. We would shout Hallelujah if we threw three dice all the same amount.
  4. We would do a subtraction sum with the first two dice and then add the third dice.


When the children got used to using the dice, we sometimes played dominoes, which again incorporates the same visual patterns to match up numbers in the game.

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