Parents and teachers often ask why we call this or that informal activity “mathematics.” Where is math in a puzzle, game, or craft? This year, we did origami at the annual BugFest, and got this question a lot. Why is origami good for your math?
First of all, try the pattern we used. It’s a cicada, because this year is super-special for cicadas. The broods that emerge every 13 years and 17 years come out together! And how often does that happen, exactly? Wow, what rare event!
You’ll need a square piece of paper for this, and most paper comes in rectangles. What’s an easy way to make a square piece out of a rectangular paper? Of course, if you aren’t into bugs, you can find an origami pattern for anything you do like – superheroes or Jedi, robots or ponies, flowers or crystals, and so on.
If you’ve folded our cicada or another design, you know it takes a few decisions along the way. Do I use all paper layers or just some? Do I fold up or down? What angle do I choose at Step 7? If you play the (very very challenging) game of explaining an origami pattern by phone, you are sure to use a ton of math-related words. Up and down, triangles and squares, lined-up and perpendicular… When children hear math words in casual activities, it boosts their understanding of the subject. This is just one of the many math benefits of origami: