Explore Math with a Valentine’s Day Explosion Box!

This post was written by Peggy Healy Stearns, Ph.D., the designer of Fab@School Maker Studio and co-founder of the Fab@School coalition. 

If you love pop-ups – those playful, joyful constructions that bring books and cards to life – then you’ll probably love “explosion boxes.” These popular 3D paper crafts take pop-ups to a whole new dimension.

Like pop-ups, “explosion boxes” offer an engaging way to invite students into the world of math and engineering. They encourage students to explore and work with measurement, parallel and perpendicular lines, angles, triangles, symmetry, and transformational geometry, all in the context of engaging manipulatives kids design and make themselves.

Although the deepest learning comes when students design from scratch, a Fab@School Maker Studio Ready-Made Project jumpstarts students by providing a model they can explore and customize. Once students understand the shapes, cuts, folds, and angles that make up an explosion box, they are better able to design from scratch.


The simple explosion box shown here is designed to enclose a small Valentine’s Day treat, gift, or note. It can be printed first and then cut, or cut without printing from colored card stock or plain white paper that students decorate themselves.

Encourage students to customize with color, cutouts, and other design elements. Once students have their initial model in hand, ask them to explore their constructions. Use some of the questions below to kickstart a class discussion. Then challenge students to design their own original explosion boxes.

Above, is the template for the Fab@School Explosion Box Ready-Made. Check it out! 

Above, is the template for the Fab@School Explosion Box Ready-Made. Check it out! 

Explore the explosion box:

  • How many faces does your explosion box pattern have? How do you get 9 faces to fold into a square box?
  • What will fit inside the box?
  • What is the volume of the box? How many M&M’s, plastic counters, or marbles will fit?
  • At what angle do the square sides fold? At what angle do the hearts fold?
  • Can you suggest other shapes or images that would work in place of the hearts?
  • What do you like best about your explosion box? What would you like to change?


  • Design 2D, pop-up, or 3D elements scaled to fit inside your explosion box.
  • Can you resize the box to hold a different object?
  • Design an original explosion box from scratch for Valentine’s Day or another occasion. Search “explosion box” on the Internet for ideas.
  • Make a different shaped explosion box. Can you design a box that looks like a building, animal or other object? With a specific purpose or “client” in mind, set criteria and constraints and design a box that meets these guidelines.