Math Stories – Cut and Fold

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I remember that when I was little, I derived a sort of enjoyment, a feeling of accomplishment, from doing math worksheets. For better or worse, my son is the exact opposite. Worksheets do nothing, but turn him off math. And so do most of the puzzles. But he loves stories. So a lot of what I do is tell stories.

The first time I told a cut-and-fold story was a long time ago. We were exploring symmetry, playing mirror games and building with blocks before. That first time I folded pieces of paper only 1 or 2 times before cutting while telling a story. My son really loved it, but then we moved on to other things…

But a few weeks ago I read a wonderful post on the Map is Not the Territory blog. In her Scissor Stories post, Malke not just posted the pretty photographs of symmetry art (like the one above), but wrote a detailed script, a story she told to a group of children. While my stories were monologues, she conversed with children, asked them questions, and helped them notice the math in the story. I encourage you to read Malke’s post. It was so inspirational to me, that the very next day I tried our cut-and-fold stories again, this time in a way Malke’s done it.

The story I told my son was about three friends. He immediately made it about him and his two best buddies and how they were ninjas. Each friend was represented by a square of origami paper. We then folded each square, trying to predict what would happen to them after each fold. Then each square ninja had some adventures along the way and made some tough choices. In the end, we tried to predict what each square would look like. Typically, my son does not like guessing, but he was so into the story, that he kept offering his predictions throughout the game. And, unlike his usual answers of “I don’t know” and “A million” and “17 million and twenty five” the guesses he offered were well thought-out and he could usually explain how he arrived at them.

Unlike Malke, I totally forgot to take pictures throughout the game or record the narrative. But honestly, if you read Malke’s post, you will know exactly what to do and will see all the opportunities for improvisation.

I promise that next time I tell math stories to my son, I’ll keep a better record of them. Would you be interested in these stories? Do you tell math stories to your children? Would you like to share them on this blog? If yes, e-mail me at yelena(at) If you already have your stories posted on your own blog, please share a link in the comments!

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Posted in Grow
2 comments on “Math Stories – Cut and Fold
  1. Yelena, this is fabulous! I love hearing how engaged your son was in the stories/math. :-) I did the scissor stories again last week with a different group of kids. This time the story was inspired by the hexagon we had taped out on the floor (for a different activity). When they came into our space that morning, the hexagon had a couple extra pieces of tape dividing it into two triangles and two rhombi (I should write this up for my blog, now that I think of it ;-). Anyhow, the squares were *really* jealous that the hexagon had a chance to change himself and they wanted a turn… lol! It totally inspired them to engage in cutting their own paper and discovering the patterns from cutting and folding. I have some video of all the kids in a circle around the taped hexagon, intently cutting and folding — all you can hear is the sound of scissors. Ha! That *is* my next post.

    • Yelena says:

      Malke, I know how much you love painter’s tape :) I can’t wait to read more about the hexagon and the envious rectangles on your blog!

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