Recreational Math

Card and Dice Games

What are dice?

Dice are small cubes usually used in games of chance. Each die (dice is the plural) has six sides numbered with dots from one to six. The dots are placed on the cubes so that the sum of dots on opposite sides equals seven; the total number of dots on each die equals 21. They are mostly associated with certain types of games, with the simplest involving a player, or many players, who throw (or toss or roll) the dice for the highest sum.

Dice have been around for more than 3,000 years, with evidence found in ancient Egyptian tombs, Chinese burial chambers, and the ruins of Babylon. The Greeks and Romans were avid users of dice and associated games, and they have been popular from the Middle Ages on. Dice have been made from many materials, including ivory, bone, wood, metal, and eventually plastic.

Not all dice are square. The cube (or hexahedron) belongs to the group of five Platonic solids, or solids formed by regular polygons. Thus, other Platonic solids have also been made into dice, including shapes (polyhedra) such as tetrahedrons, octahedrons, and dodecahedrons, which are used for certain types of games. (For more information about Platonic solids and polyhedra, see “Geometry and Trigonometry.”)


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