Math = Love: The Long Wait for Origami is Over!

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Long Wait for Origami is Over!

I love origami.  Am I the best at it?  Definitely not!  But, I find it to be fun and relaxing (except when it's frustrating and makes you want to pull your hair out!)

If you were to walk in my classroom, one of the first things that would catch your eye would be the colorful origami that is hanging from my ceiling.

Hanging Origami from Ceiling

During the first week of school, my freshman wanted to know: "Are we going to learn how to make those?  When are we going to make those?"  And, I've been telling them all year long that we will do origami AFTER state testing.  Still, every few months, they would ask, "Are we ever going to get to origami?  We've waited for so long!  I want to know how to make a cube!"  Well, my Algebra 1 students have finished with their state testing, so it was time to pull out the origami paper this past week!

I have copies of instructions for making a basic sonobe unit from the book Unfolding Mathematics with Unit Origami.  Yes, I could show them how to do the folds step-by-step, but I want to give them practice following written directions.  (I do show them how to assemble the units, though.)  It's the top-left book in the picture below.  For students who want to make other creations, I have these other books available in my classroom for inspiration.

Origami Resources

I bought all of these books used off of Amazon.  I have had several students make things from the Beginner's Book of Modular Origami Polyhedra, but it's not the most user-friendly book.  The two books on the left are made for teachers and feature worksheets and activities to go along with each origami project.  I have never actually used these worksheets with my students.  I think it would be a blast, though, to teach an origami based course.

I also purchased my origami paper (6 inch square paper) from Amazon.  If I hunt around enough, I can find a package marked down to $8-$10.  (It's $10.40 at the time of writing.)  

Origami Paper

Want to see what my desk looks like during origami season?  It's scary!  (Actually, my desk is always scary.  It's just usually not covered in sonobe units!)

Origami Explosion

Every year, I have some students who build a cube or triangular hexahedron and leave it behind in my classroom.  I decided to take these apart and make a giant 24-piece cube out of them.  This is the largest piece of modular origami I have ever created.  It's not the tightest construction because a lot of the pieces were less than perfect.  I guess the kids who take their time and make all their folds perfectly tend to take their origami home with them.  This took a good 20-30 minutes to put together, and I almost gave up multiple times.

Giant Modular Origami Cube Made of 24 Sonobe Units
One of my students made a very nice stellated octahedron from copy paper!  He came in at lunch one day to get help assembling it.  It had been a year since I had put one of these together, so I had to turn to the internet for a quick refresher!

Stellated Octahedron Origami
One day I had five kids come in my classroom at lunch to just hang out and do origami.  It was a beautiful sight!

Lunchtime Origami

Lunchtime Origami
This student has caught onto modular origami very quickly!  She put together her stellated octahedron with zero help from me or a book.  She didn't even look it up on the Internet.  Instead, she just put it together intuitively.  I'm impressed.  Here, she's trying to make a stellated icosahedron.  I've never even made one of these before!

Origami Assembly
The only thing I don't like about origami is that it tends to leave my room a mess!  I'm pretty sure the janitor loves me right now.  The other day, one of my students made an origami envelope, labeled it "origami," and left it behind in my classroom.  While cleaning up my room later, I found the origami envelope with an added message.  It now read "Origami is the".  Yes, I do think my students love origami!


My kids laugh at how many math terms I try to fit into my origami instructions.  When teaching students how to assemble the corner of their cube or triangular hexahedron, I tell students to hold one of their sonobe units vertically.  Next, they are going to place their second sonobe unit so it is perpendicular to the first sonobe unit.  The third sonobe unit needs to be perpendicular to the second sonobe unit and parallel to the first sonobe unit.  They always laugh over how I can turn anything into a math lesson!

Once students make a cube or triangular hexahedron, I give them permission to try their hand at other origami projects.  They can use their phones or tablets to look up step-by-step origami instructions online.  I've had students make origami hats, origami hearts, origami cats, origami diamonds, and so much more.  It's fun to see them accessing the creative side of their brain.


  1. Sarah, these are awesome! I am going to buy the first book you listed, Unfolding mathematics with unit origami. It looks kid friendly. Thanks for sharing. I love incorporating Art into Math.:)

    1. Jan, you are going to love that book! I love incorporating Art into Math, too!