Blog Post

Origami is Like Programming…..

This blog post originally appeared on AbstractingCS and has been
re-published with the permission of the author.


…. and let me tell and show you how.   Programming involves solving problems in a creative and accurate way while creating a sequence of coded, ordered steps to accomplish the desired outcome.   Origami is similarly ordered steps with a desired objective:  the neatly and creatively folded paper object. 

To kick off Semester 2 in my classes (AP CSP and APCS-A) I decided to put a spin on our friend, Carol’s, Origami Algorithms intro assignment by making it a little harder and tying it in with my programmers’ prior knowledge of solving algorithms.   The Origami is Like Programming resources and images are shared in our Google Drive.

Origami is like Programming Activity: Step-by-Step Details


Before class I printed the full sheets of origami instructions from Origami-Fun and cut each set into pieces as numbered on the pages; then I used a hole punch to remove the number of the steps.   This allowed me to distribute the projects with all the instructions but no known order and, therefore, emphasize that having the steps to solving a problem in only part of what one needs. 


I created 22+ of these for each class so that students could select his/her own project by choosing an envelope with the image of the origami taped to the flap.  Also provided was colored copy paper cut to either 6 x 8″ or 8.5 x 8.5″.   I cut different colors and many extra as some students made several origami objects working collaboratively with their classmates.


Students make their selection and began to evaluate the possible order of their algorithm steps.


If students were struggling or wanted to double check, they could go to the website to see the instruction page or video demo — most students liked the challenge and did not need the online resources.  I liked that they took it as a game to solve without help!


After creating their origami, students were given a Reflection Summary page for homework and asked to write about how having an algorithms steps is not a guarantee of success in the outcome and to compare/contrast origami to programming.


Finally, students added the Reflection Summary page and envelopes to the students journals — gluing the envelope (front down) allows for the flap to open and hold their instructions and folded items.  Of course, those who made boxes just took those home but others were able to put their origami in their journal to keep.








































Learning Outcomes

Students enjoyed this activity and quickly saw that solving any algorithm has similar elements.  This activity was a nice way to start back from holiday break and helped students connect prior problem solving strategies to a new task.

Each student was able to select a different origami project which I liked.   Some students already were proficient at origami creation, and they quickly became helpers to their peers.  This was a great, unintended outcome because it isn’t always the best programmer that is the best paper folder HA!.   I like it when rock stars emerge as we accomplish tasks with different skills sets.

We kicked off Semester 2 as a fun, creative and thought provoking day in CS and that is always my favorite kind of day!

Happy teaching and learning, Jill



This blog post originally appeared on AbstractingCS and has been re-published with the permission of the author.

Jill Westerlund teaches AP Computer Science, IB Computer Science SL, Computer Science Principles AP Pilot and Dual Enrollment Computer and Information Systems at Hoover High School in Hoover, Alabama.   Additionally, Jill teaches APCS-A for the Alabama Virtual School via the Alabama ACCESS program.  She serves students from high schools in the central region of the state by offering APCS-A virtually.   Since 1990 Jill has taught at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Jill serves as a mentor teacher for CS4Alabama’s launch of Computer Science Principles course and is a participating pilot teacher in the CollegeBoard National Pilot of AP Computer Science Principles Phase II.



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