Shut the Box

Have you heard of the game Shut the Box? I came across this bookshelf game at a consignment store and it looked as if it had ‘math potential’. My son and I really enjoy playing it and I am thrilled to see his mind at work trying to find combinations of numbers that have sums between 2 and 12. He has increased his understanding that a number can be made in many ways, he has learned strategies to increase his chances of winning and he has had more practice with place value.

When I did a little on-line research I found this exact version of Shut the Box produced by the University Games Corporation. They have a wide assortment of games including coffee table and bookshelf games. This Shut the Box game is part of the Front Porch Classic Brand.

The objective is fairly simple:

These are the basic instructions for the game:

At the end of a person’s turn he/she determines his/her score. I find this step a bit counter-intuitive. In many other games you calculate the sum of the tiles for the score but in this game you read the number from left to right. It is great practice with place value. If you have a lot of tiles left up it will be challenging for young children. Here are a couple of examples:

The scores you see above are 27, 458 and 2456.

I do not recommend using this game to teach children about addition. Students need to understand what addition means and have their own meaningful strategies to add numbers up to 12. Using these number tiles to learn how to add is too abstract. Work with concrete materials and experiences should be offered to students before introducing this game.

This is great practice, though, to help students become comfortable creating combinations of numbers to make different sums. It is also a good opportunity for children to practice subitizing (recognizing at a glance) the numbers that appear on the dice. Older children could also study the chances of rolling certain sums and thinking about which tiles are best to turn over earlier or later in a round.

I think children  (and adults) of all ages would find this game fun because of the competitive component to see who can turn over the most tiles and create the lowest score. My family also likes this game because of the game design: the felt interior, the sound the dice make when they are rolled and the smell of the wood. If teachers can’t find this game or don’t want to spend the money buying it they could easily create this game on paper to play in small groups or create the tiles on an interactive whiteboard for a whole class game.

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About ccampbel14

I am a junior high math teacher at an Edmonton K-9 school. I am always looking for innovative and creative ways to teach mathematics so that I can reach every learner so they can be as successful as they possibly can be.
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