Math and Origami

Let’s Make some Easy Holiday Origami!

These easy holiday origami activities will work perfectly for your classroom. Create a candy cane and tree paper crafts using these simple instructions. This is great for elementary aged students and up. A wonderful DIY activity for before the holiday break. Have your students create these holiday decorations with this simple tutorial and then use the ideas to integrate into the curriculum too!






Let’s Create!

It’s the holidays. And today we are going to make an origami tree and a candy cane. To show you how to do this, I’ve invited my friend Barbara Pearl, who is an origami expert to show us how.

If you don’t know me, my name is Elizabeth Peterson. I’m an elementary classroom teacher and the host of The Inspired Classroom and I love inspiring and sharing creative activities with teachers so that they can inspire their students with the arts. Now, origami is a wonderful Japanese art form and Barbara has even presented about her methods of integrating origami and math to teachers in Japan.


So here’s what you need for today’s holiday origami.

  • A piece of square paper for each model that we’re going to create
  • A pencil to roll the paper into the candy cane shape
  • If you have it, a piece of tape.

Now if you don’t have a square piece of paper you can easily make one from a regular sized piece of paper. Watch what I’m doing in the video at 1 minute and you can do the same to make your piece of paper into a square. And if you don’t have red or green for your paper remember you can always color one side of the paper with markers or crayons or colored pencils, whatever you have around the house. All right, let’s get started.

Let’s Start with the Candy Cane

Welcome back, Barbara. I’m so excited to have you show us some really cute origami for the holidays today. So what do you have in store for us today?

– Hello everyone. And I’m glad to be here. I’m Barbara Pearl. And today I’m going to demonstrate how to make a candy cane. And for this model, we need a six by six inch square and we’re going to start with the white side up. The first step is to fold a border on the paper. So we’re going to take the bottom edge and fold it to create a rectangular border. And remember the secret to folding is in the crease. So crease sharply, at least three times.

– Does it matter how big the border is?

– [Barbara] I call it a rat fold. In origami that stands for right about there. So if you see my fold, try to gauge it about that. Rotate the paper for the next step. We’re going to make a border on the other edge, crease sharply. And if you look carefully, you see that you created the letter L. And do you know the French word for Christmas?

– Yes, it’s Noel.

– [Barbara] That’s right. We’re going to take the Noel corner, this side and flip the paper over. Then using a pencil we’re going to roll one end of the paper to the opposite end. So I’m going to wrap the paper around the pencil and very slowly and mindfully roll one edge to the opposite. And you’ll start to see your candy cane taking shape. Can you see it?

– Yeah, this is cute.

– [Barbara] And then, do a little pinch in the center. Here’s the fun part. Just gently shake the paper and your pencil will slip out. Well, there’s a few ways you can secure the paper. You can just pinch it, squeeze it. You can take glue, or you can even use a piece of tape. Now to make the hook of the candy cane we’re going to take a portion of it, maybe a quarter of it and start to fold it over. I start to fold it over and then I like to use the pencil also to wrap it around the pencil, about a quarter of the way. And then when I release it, you’ll see the hook, the hook that it creates. What’s nice about this candy cane, you can decorate a card or a tree or a window with it. And it’s sugar-free.

– Very nice. And that seems very, very simple too.

– [Barbara] The best part. All it takes is a piece of paper.

Now Let’s Create a Holiday Tree

For our next model. I want to show you how to make a tree, a holiday tree.

– [Barbara] I’m using green foil. Origami paper’s traditionally color on one side and white on the other. Another good resource is gift wrap paper. Just cut it into the shape that you need and the size.

So we’re going to start on a diagonal and folding the paper in half. So you have a triangle. I call this the T technique. Place your finger at the top point or the apex of the triangle, slide your finger down and increase side to side. It smooths out all the edges.

Unfold the paper and rotate it. And you see a guideline down the center, that vertical line of symmetry. We’re going to use it to do the next step.

Rotate the paper, take one edge of the square and fold it precisely against that vertical line of symmetry. This is sometimes called a kite fold. I like to start in the corner and then fan it out to make sure I get the sharpest crease.

There’s a lot of symmetry in origami. So if you do it on one side, you do it on the other. Let’s take the other side of the paper and fold that precisely against the vertical line of symmetry. Again, I start in the corner and then I can control or fan the paper out to the edge. So it looks like this.

Rotate the paper. And if you look carefully, you see triangles everywhere. You see the triangles on the side. How many triangles? One, two, the large one makes three, and here’s what, four, five. And this large one makes six. We’re going to take the apex of this triangle and fold it over the base of the other triangle.

For the next step, rotate the paper and using that existing line of symmetry, we’re going to fold the whole triangle in half. Crease sharply. I always recommend creasing at least three times.

Now the fun part, we’re going to start at the base of this triangle and we’re going to fan it and fold it all the way to the top. So starting with a portion of it at the bottom, turn it back and forth until I get to the very tip of the paper. And again it varies how large you want to make the fold, or small. You can vary it. Just need to repeat this step back and forth until I get to the very top point.

And then once you’re there, turn the paper over. And if you gently separate all those steps we’ll see the pattern they created in your model. When you complete that step, you want to open it up very gently and you’ll see that it’ll create a stand for your holiday tree.

And I made a few more. So I have a forest of trees. And again they come in different sizes and shapes like us. So you can experiment and have fun creating a variety of different trees. Happy holidays.

– Thank you, Barbara. I love that.

So how did your candy cane and tree come out? Are you planning to make your own forest now? That would be pretty cool.

What a great 3D landscape these would make for a winter or a holiday story. Let your creative juices start to really flow and let me know in the comments, what you might do now that you know how to make these simple models. If you liked learning how to make the tree and the candy cane. Well, please like this video and subscribe to my channel. I’d love for you to see some of the other how-to videos I have in my How-To Playlist.

My name’s Elizabeth. And I look forward to seeing you in the next video.


Barbara Pearl’s website:

Other Origami Videos:

How to Make a Flextangle:…

How to Make an Origami Pumpkin:

Origami and Math:

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