Don't overlook small activities. Small activities can actually lead to big learning. I showed this symmetry paper trick to my 10 year old and he saw the answer right away, but my 6 year old had to watch it several times. He focused, concentrated and kicked his spatial perception into gear. His brain was working! Then, he had to try it for himself. He used his memory and recall skills, along with his understanding of math and geometry to fold and refold the paper until he got it right. He didn't get it right the first time, but he used his executive function skills to execute a plan and achieve a goal.
He was mighty pleased with himself once he figured it out. As he should be. And I was pleased. Because this one seemingly small achievement means he will go on to apply this same growth mindset to bigger challenges.
All that from a "silly" little paper trick.
Here's how it works (because I know after that introduction you will want to try it for yourself):
Print out the two dot printable and cut to size (or design your own).
Fold the paper in half from left to right.
Fold the paper in half from top to bottom.
Perform silly hand gestures. (See video for the secret.)
Unfold the paper by raising the bottom back portion of the paper. (I couldn't really get a photo of this, so see the video if you are confused. In the video I perform the trick a second time making all the actions perfectly clear. It's very simple once you see it in action.)
Unfold and open.
Ooh and ahh!
Watch a video of it in action:
NOTE: If you are having trouble viewing the video watch it on YouTube here.
Extensions for learning:
- Believe it or not, there is some math at work here. Ask your kids what they know about symmetry and rotation.
- What happens when you perform the trick with a non-symmetrical image? Try writing "1, 2, 3" on a piece of paper and see what happens.
- Try drawing a big arrow pointing left. What direction is the arrow pointing after the folding trick?
- What happens if you rotate the paper 90 degrees and then perform the trick?
- Perform the trick for a friend. How long does it take them to guess the secret?
- Create symmetry with this art project or explore symmetry with a mirror.
- Play Swish, a card game that promotes spatial awareness, and an understanding of symmetry and rotation.
- Want more paper tricks? Fool around with a Mobius strip, and turn two circles into a square.
MORE: Favorite math books - with some that feature symmetry
See more of our favorite math games in action: