3D Printed Negative Integer Dice

On Thursday, a teacher walked into my office and said she needed something 3D printed. She had been looking for negative integer dice online to use with her ELL (English Language Learner) students but couldn’t find anything that matched what she needed. She wanted a die with the numbers -1 to -6 and a second dice with the number -7 to -12. All together she needed 8 pairs of dice.

I went down to a CTE (Career and Tech Ed) class that I have been helping learn 3D design using Tinkercad (free) via the Project Ignite system (also free). I spent about 3 minutes explaining the project and then left. Project Ignite includes a numbered die lesson as part of the Making Everyday Objects Pt. 2 project so I knew they had the background info available to complete the task.

I printed a quick prototype on the school Makerbot 5th gen to confirm the product would meet the teacher’s needs.

Today, a student came into my office and dropped off 8 sets of negative integer dice that they had designed and then printed on the class Afinia H800.

This is a great example of how 3D printing in school enables One to the World type projects. Students were given an Authentic Challenging Problem in the World and created Public Products for the World. If the students had been in a traditional CAD class without access to a digital fabrication tool they would not have had the ability to create a real solution to the problem. 3D printing enabled the students to actually fill the need of the teacher.

Of course there were other options for the teacher, she could have ordered sets of blank dice for about $8 and written the numbers on them with Sharpie. However, the 3D printed dice were free to the teacher using only $1-2 of filament and were ready before an order could have been made and shipped to the school. (Plus 3D printed dice are super cool!) Meanwhile, the CTE students were able to complete a real world project that helped vulnerable students and adds a small contribution to living a life of signifigance. (school mission) The next step will be to help the students publish their Negative Integer dice on a 3D repository like Thingiverse.

Custom Dice in the Classroom: Random number generators like custom 3D printed dice introduce a great element into practice. Rather than a worksheet filled with problems, students are able to roll the dice and generate their own practice problems. Randomness creates a game like element to the practice and encourages play rather than ‘finishing’ the worksheet. Students feel in control of the activity.

The customizable nature of the dice enables the teacher to differentiate the practice for students. Some dice might have easier or harder options or some options may occur more frequently. For instance, imagine a mathematical operations dice that has 4 addition symbols and 2 subtraction symbols. Some dice might have larger numbers than others. These tweaks adjust the frequency of outcomes. The teacher could also create different colored sets of dice with increasing difficulty. For example: white dice with numbers 1-3, blue dice with numbers 1-6, green dice with numbers 1-9, and red dice with numbers 1-12.

(P.S. Written on the new WordPress.com app for Mac.)