Make Math Fun with Shut the Box

Every now and then you come across something tried and true - something that just “works”.

When a dear friend gave this little number game to my son for his birthday he was HOOKED. (All I heard for the next week was the sound of dice clacking on wood - I thought we had struck gold because he was so ENGAGED.)

After he asked the rest of us to sit down and play we were all hooked, too. As a homeschool mom I of course thought of the fabulous educational value and how we could use it in our math studies.

A big part of enjoying math is making it fun, right?

We own a lot of math games, but it was just nice to have one that was so SIMPLE, and could be played alone when needed!

Now I’ll tell anyone who will listen about this game, and it’s the first one I bring out when we have younger kids at our house who need something to occupy them!

Shut the Box Instructions

Shut The Box is very easy to play - which is why this is a great game for they younger set! We have found, however, that it is a lot of fun to play with older siblings. In our family, the grandparents particularly loved to play this with the kids.

(We even gave it as a Christmas gift to our granddaddy last year!)

We have a small 4 person Shut the Box that stayed in our van for quite a long time - you would be amazed how much it got used while we were waiting places!

You can start with a basic Shut the Box game.

  • Make sure all of the wooden tabs are up (your box is fully “open”).

  • Player 1 rolls the dice and calculates the SUM of the two numbers. Player 1 then chooses shut the numbers that have the same sum as what was calculated from the dice roll. (for example: if the sum is 6 they can close just the 6, or the 2 & 4 or the 1 & 5).

  • If the numbers 7, 8, 9, and 10 are all covered, player 1 may choose to roll one or two dice. If any of these numbers are still left open, the player must use both dice. (some games go up to 10, and some go to 9, just depends which you are playing)

  • Player 1 continues rolling dice, calculating the sum and “shutting” numbers until they can no longer continue.

  • If all numbers are crossed out, the player says “shut the box”. If not all numbers are crossed out, player 1 calculates the sum of the numbers that are not crossed out and that is their score.

  • If “shut the box” is achieved, player 1 records a score of “0”.

  • Player 2 then goes through the same process and follows the same rules as player 1.

  • The player with the lowest score wins!

  • You can also play the game where Player 1 and 2 alternate rolls - it’s up to you!

*For video instructions how to play, click here.

Additional Shut the Box Math Ideas

Once you have played Shut the Box a number of times, your brain will start to devise other ways you can play the game - and other math concepts you can reinforce.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Practice averages with Shut the Box. For example, play 5 rounds of the game and then determine what your AVERAGE score is. You could even bring in terms like mean, median, and mode if you’re getting creative!

  • Keep a running Shut the Box tally sheet - sit down for short spurts to keep the game going for a long time in your home. Keep the tally sheet tacked on your refrigerator.

  • While playing Shut the Box, have your child put down the numbers for their SUM, but then ask them after that to tell you what the PRODUCT of their roll was (just a little extra thinking), too.

  • Ask your child to play Shut the Box alone. Give them a piece of paper with the numbers 1-20 and have them record their score for 20 rounds. Circle the LOWEST round. Put a box around the HIGHEST round.

  • How many rounds can your child play in 15 minutes? Set a timer for fun.

Get creative!

Ask your kids to come up with ways to play Shut the Box, too.

I’ll tell you a fun story:

A few nights ago my 14 year old was “bored”. His PlayStation time was over for the day and he had exhausted other options. I sat down on the couch and started playing Shut the Box by myself. Pretty soon he joined me. We spent an hour having a Shut the Box tournament - an unexpected surprise for him, and a great time for me to spend some time with him.

Now our Shut the Box game has been put back out in our family room so we can play again soon.

I hope this becomes a good thing for your children, too!

Have you ever played Shut the Box?

Let me know in the comments below.