Math and Origami

Origami and Math

Math and origami have a lot in common!  There are just so many math vocabulary terms you can explore and teach while you fold.  In this video, you will learn how to integrate many math concepts as you discover mindFOLDness create an origami box.

Read the Transcription

Have you considered all the wonderful possibilities of the art form of origami? This right here is just full of so many math concepts. And how about this amazing three-dimensional shape? There are so many math applications to origami. And these were made by my friend Stacy Greenland who was the one who showed us about flextangles in this video.

You’ll definitely want to check that out. But right now I have a special, special treat. Barbara Pearl, who is a world-renowned educator and author, is also the founder of Math in Motion. You’ll definitely want to check out that website.

And in today’s video, I’m so happy to be able to invite Barbara in where she’s going to talk a lot about how math and origami are so related and give us a wonderful technique, a wonderful methodology of how to integrate math, math vocabulary into some origami folding. She calls it See It, Say It, Write It, and does a lot with the concept of mindFOLDness.

All you need to join us in making this mystery model is a regular-sized piece of paper: blank, new, lined, old, recycled… any kind of piece of paper, and a pencil. Oh and don’t forget your hands for doing some folding.

“As I developed the program and the methodology, I was invited to speak at different conferences including NCTM The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. After speaking at several conferences, I developed Math in Motion where I was invited to do staff development training: teacher-family-student workshops. Probably the highlight of my career is being invited to Japan and speaking to the Ministry of Education and I was invited to travel throughout China and Japan.

And when I was training teachers, I encouraged them to explore more origami. And at the time there were books in the library, but they assumed you had a Japanese grandmother or degree in Engineering. So, when I wrote my first book, I decided to write in Mother Goose terms just so that when teachers picked it up they could use it immediately and they could integrate it into their classrooms. That’s what Math in Motion is.

When I gave it to NCTM, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, to review, I thought it was best for K-6. But they sent it back in stamped it for K-8 because so many of our students suffer from math anxiety. And that’s because of what I call the Three Fs: Fear, Frustration, and Failure. And, you know the arts is such a powerful teaching tool. When children are doing origami they’re engaged in this learning process.”

“Yes and that’s one of the benefits of the Arts in general and so I think that when teachers and parents really understand that the Arts aren’t just you know visual art, music, drama, and dance, but it really does expand to so many different things, origami being one of them. And so I love that you bring the art of origami not just to us for the fun of it, but as an integrating tool. And you know it’s not just about math. I know you talk a lot about SEL, social-emotional learning. And so can you tell us a little bit about some of the social-emotional benefits? Like, I love your mindFOLDness. I can see this being so useful with growth mindset. So can you tell us a little bit about that?”

“I’m going to demonstrate that when we do the fold tonight. As STEAM is rising in education, origami is inCREASEing, if we can throw a little pun in there. When students have created a model I find it develops their self-esteem and confidence. And when they feel successful, they’re more apt and inclined to transfer that to other areas of learning. When we do the folding tonight I’ll also incorporate the mindfulness and SEL components.”

(5:17) Math concepts explored:

  • length and width
  • measuring and counting
  • rectangles and other quadrilaterals
  • vertical and horizontal
  • line of symmetry
  • fractions
  • parallel and perpendicular
  • right angles
  • triangles


(23:07) Ways to use this origami model

  • container
  • diorama
  • display case
  • gift box
  • basket
  • so many possibilities!

Wasn’t that pretty cool? I mean how many ways can you use a box? So many ways and I love that this can be adaptable for face-to-face learning or online learning as well. All you have to do is tilt your computer screen or laptop so students can see what you’re doing with your hands.

So, give it a try and let us know what you think in the comments. I can’t wait to hear about how you use origami with your students. If you like getting videos like this, then hit the like button and be sure to subscribe to The Inspired Classroom’s channel so that you will be notified every time we dropped a new video. My name is Elizabeth Peterson. Have a great day.


Barbara Pearl’s website:

How to Make a Flextangle:


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