Target Math Learning at All Levels with This Fun Game

This flexible math game can be played at all levels to help build number sense with both small and large numbers.
By Jennifer Hogan
Oct 04, 2016



Oct 04, 2016

The Target Game is one of my students' favorite games. It teaches kids about number sense, an important math skill because your kids learn to think flexibly about numbers, understand number meaning and the relationships they have to each other, as well as the operations numbers can do.

The Target Game is incredibly flexible, allowing addition and subtraction practice for younger kids - multiplication and division practice for older kids.

You can play with many dice or just a pair, and adjust the rules of the game to suit the age, grade level, and math skills of your child. I hope your family has as much fun playing the Target Game as we do!

Here's How to Play the Target Game

Materials: Dice (5 dice), paper (blank, graph or lined), pencils

Number of Players: 1+

Ages: 8-10

Object: To reach the target number and have the lowest score possible.


  1. Roll a pair of dice to determine the target number. For example, roll a 2 and 6. The target number can either be 26 or 62 — players can choose whichever target number they want. This “target number” should go at the top of each player’s paper.
  1. Next, roll five dice to create the playing numbers. Under the target number, record the 5 numbers that were just rolled. You'll use these numbers to get to your target number. For example, say you roll a 4, 2, 1, 3, and 6. You'll write these numbers under the target number, in order from smallest to biggest:

    1, 2, 3, 4, 6

  1. Reach the target number. Using the 5 playing numbers, add, subtract, multiply, or divide each of the digits exactly once to create the target number or get as close to the target number as possible. If your target number is 62, and you've rolled the numbers above (1, 2, 3, 4, 6), you can get to the target number in the following ways:

4 x 6 = 24

24 - 2 = 22

22 + 1 = 23

23 + 3 = 26

This is one way to get to the target number. On my paper, I would show my work and record each of my steps. Since I reached my target number (e.g. I reached 26 exactly), I receive a score of 0.

Another way your kids to get to or near the target number could be:

4 x 3 = 12

12 x 2 = 24

24 – 1 = 23

23 + 6 = 29

These steps didn’t get them exactly to their target number but close to it. Their score would be 3 because they are 3 away from the target number (29 - 26 = 3).

  1. Roll five dice again. You can keep the same target number and roll 5 new digits. Repeat steps two and three until you’ve played several rounds. The player with the lowest score wins!


  • Younger players (ages 5-7): Pick a number between 10-20 as your target number. Roll 3 dice (instead of 5). Players can add and/or subtract the numbers to get to the target number.
  • Older Players (ages 10 and up):  instead of using dice, use playing cards or digit cards (0-9).  This allows for more number choices since you are using the digits 7, 8, and 9.
  • Cards: Instead of using dice, use playing cards or digit cards (0-9). This allows for more number choices since you are using the digits 7, 8, and 9.
  • Challenge: Have players create an expression following the rules of PEMDAS, or the order of operation for solving problems (parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction). Kids can use parenthesis and exponents to make their expressions more challenging.
  • Competition: Use a timer and give players a time limit on how long they have to get to their target number. If you don’t reach the target number you are out.

Do you have any math games you like to play with your children? Share your favorites on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.

Featured Image: © RapidEye/iStockphoto

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