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.

What We've Been Up To Lately: The Homeschool Road is NOT Easy (and a few other updates)

The homeschool life can be beautiful, but it can also be HARD.

If our perspective is eternal, then even the hard can be beautiful.

Last weekend I went on retreat with 15 other homeschool moms from our Classical Conversations community. The biggest takeaway from the weekend was this: We are doing something of eternal significance and joy through homeschooling our children. LIFE, however, doesn’t stop when you are homeschooling.

We still take on the regular burdens of any family - struggles with relationships, caring for aging parents, caring for our OWN physical and emotional health, meeting the needs of many different types of children, coping with job and financial stress. The list could go on and on…

Moms, it is imperative we take care of ourselves. Surround yourself with friendships and situations that lift and support you. Whatever curriculum you choose, it won’t be of any value to your children if YOU aren’t healthy, happy, and pouring love and grace into your children.

The Homeschool Life is Hard - Why It is Important to Have Community & Friendships

The Homeschool Road is NOT Easy

Can I be completely transparent with you today?

Life is HARD.

Being a mama in my late 40s brings about its own set of physical and emotional changes. Add to that death of parents, caring for parents, chronic pain struggles of my own, raising teens, running a business, and a myriad of other demands on my time, and life gets overwhelming.

Add the responsibility of my children’s education on top of this, and sometimes it feels that it might be easier to crawl into a little hole and escape for a while.

I am, however, seeing the FRUIT of homeschooling. I see two teens who are kind, responsible, personable, and compassionate. As I’m reading Beauty in the Word I am learning that educating our children for BEING, not DOING, is the goal.

Homeschooling has allowed me to teach my children how to BE - and this skill will take them far as servants in God’s kingdom.

We all need a support system.

All moms need a #homeschool support system!

I love the ladies in our homeschool community.

Each of the ladies in the above picture have their own struggles. They each also have their own special way of encouraging and supporting others, and their unique ways of pouring into other homeschool moms.

We need each other. We laugh, cry, pray, and love each other.

I couldn’t do this homeschool thing without community.

Three days with this community of women (plus 10 more not pictured here!) have equipped me until next year at this time, when we will do it all over again.

#Homeschool Moms need community!

How appropriate that we could end our retreat with worship time and visiting a chapel on the property of the farm where we spent our weekend.

In a world that seems to be going a bit wonky, this was a slice of heaven on earth. Truly.

A Bookish Update

Another thing that keeps me sane is reading… reading to my children and reading on my own. Below are the books that are laying on nightstands, coffee tables, and fire places right now:

I’ve been trying to read a bit more widely in 2019, so you will see more nonfiction and spiritual reading.

A lot of people ask how I can read so much. My answer is this: I love Audible and listen to A LOT of audio books!

Homeless BirdBeauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of EducationThe Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt OutDefiant Joy: Taking Hold of Hope, Beauty, and Life in a Hurting WorldGhosted: A NovelPrivate Peaceful (After Words)One Summer: America, 1927An Anonymous Girl: A NovelMiss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone Classics)Next Year in Havana


Curriculum & Graduation Update

We made the decision to move Grant into Challenge I (Classical Conversations) next year.

Our community is so very strong, and he will be in a class of 12 wonderful peers.

I know there is often a lot of reevaluating and decision making when a child enters high school, and we did wrestle with whether or not to send him to a fully accredited homeschool hybrid school or keep him in Classical Conversations. In the end - community won out! Plus, I also believe in the CC model for the Challenge years.

We will be adjusting - adding and subtracting - curriculum pieces as we move along, so I will keep you updated on that.

Right now he is busy preparing for Mock Trial, digging into Logic and Latin, and really enjoying his switch from Saxon Math to Shormann Math.

Anna graduates May 17 and is ready! Would you believe she already has her first semester college schedule already? And, she is rooming with a friend of hers from home, so I think she’s feeling good about going to college.

See what I mean about homeschool paying off? I’m so so happy I decided to follow her lead in these high school years and make a huge change when it was needed. It all worked out for the best.

We’re learning a lot of life lessons here. Things like managing money, time, and relationships are valuable life skills!

It’s an interesting mix of letting go and reigning in at this age. I spend a lot of time praying about how best to handle certain situations, and I’m relying a lot on my husband, who is DEFINITELY the most patient parent!

We have a lot of family coming for Anna’s graduation - what a blessing that will be. In our hearts we will be missing my mom and my husband’s father, but I know they see it all and are so proud of the young lady she is becoming. I find myself overcome with tears several times a week just missing them, but it’s ok to be sad - and then I move on.

Being Spontaneous

I’ve never been very good at spontaneity. It is, however, my children’s love language.

They LOVE surprises.

On Tuesday a friend of mine posted on Facebook “Who wants to see The Piano Guys tonight?” I jumped on it! (It didn’t even matter it was 2.5 hours away - I snagged the tickets, rented a hotel room, and told my kids to pack a bag!) Dad was on a business trip to California during our Winter Break, so I decided we needed to take a little trip, too!

What an amazing concert!

I have used so many of their videos in my SQUILT curriculum; I figured this was “business research” for me.

Surprise Trip to See the Piano Guys

We’re full steam ahead until the end of the year.

I go back to the emphasis of our retreat weekend: God is always there in the midst of ANY circumstance. He loves us so much and rejoices and cries with us. We are NEVER alone. He wants the best for us and often times has us in the valley so that we must struggle to reach up for HIM.

I’m thankful for this online community of homeschooling mamas, and pray that I can be an encouragement to each of you.

#Homeschool is hard, but if our perspective is eternal, then even the hard can be beautiful.

If you feel led, please share a struggle and/or joy from the past week in the comments below.

Let’s encourage each other!

You might also like:

How to Reach Your Teen Homeschooler’s Heart

Homeschooling Your Teen: Are You Missing the Most Important Thing?