Students from High Tech Middle surround their finished origami sculpture. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Students from High Tech Middle surround their finished origami sculpture. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Under the patient direction of a mathematics professor, middle school students assembled a giant sculpture from colorful paper Tuesday at the University of San Diego.

Some 50 students from High Tech Middle worked for nearly two hours, first practicing with small pieces, and then advancing to 4-foot squares. Soon the sculpture, dubbed “Fireworks,” stood in front of Immaculata Church.

“How many isosceles right triangles do you have now,” asked Dr. Perla Myers, associate dean of faculty, as she led the students. “Who says there’re eight?”

Perla Myers with origami

The Mathigami project, directed by Myers, is a pioneering attempt to overcome students’ fear of mathematics through the Japanese art of origami.

“We want people to smile when they hear the word ‘mathematics,’ to see mathematics as powerful and beautiful,” said Myers.

She is introducing teachers throughout San Diego County to the use of origami to teach students the joys of math.

The giant origami sculpture is part of the university’s Research Week 2016, which included laboratory tours, open houses and an undergraduate research conference.

“Research Week 2016 is an exciting opportunity for the USD community to demonstrate their research to expand global knowledge, highlight cutting-edge faculty-student collaboration and participate in peacemaking initiatives around the world,” said USD President James T. Harris III.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.