Six pin bowling: Numeracy activities that work

This one is definitely a hat tip to my friend Rodney and like the others it’s based on the Making Sense of Number numeracy progression for adult learners.


  • Practice the four basic computations, i.e. solving equations using combinations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.


  • Blank paper and pen per student or pair of learners
  • Three standard six-sided dice.


  • To knock over as many bowling pins as possible using equations made up of the same three single digits.
  • Be the first learner/group to knock out all 6 pins.


  • Ask learners to draw 6 circles (pins) in the shape of a pyramid (one at the top, two in the middle and three on the base). The tutor or trainer should draw an example on the whiteboard to illustrate.
  • On each pin (in each circle) each learner picks a number between 1-20 (exclusive) and writes it in the circle (pin). See illustration below for an example. You can’t repeat a number once you’ve used it.

6pin bowling

  • The bowling balls used are three standard six-sided dice.
  • The tutor or trainer rolls the dice and writes up the three numbers that come up on the whiteboard. Alternatively, learners can form groups of three and one of them rolls the dice.
  • Using +, -, x and /, the students must try to knock out as many pins as they can (or alternatively choose one pin to knock out). 
  • E.g. If the numbers 1, 6 and 2 were rolled, students could use: (2×6) + 1 to knock out pin 13 above in the top position, or (6+1) x 2 to knock out pin 14 in the bottom left position.
  • Each number can only be used ONCE in any equation.
  • Numbers can be used in ANY order in any , (e.g. 4, 6, 2 could be used as 6, 2 4, etc).
  • Numbers cannot be put together (e.g. 4 and 6 to make 64 or 46).
  • It is important that the learners record their equations so that the winners can “prove” their winning equations.


Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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