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Origami: Sharpen Visual-Spatial Skills & Boost Your ACT Math Score

Learning and test scores shouldn’t always be about test prep. It’s more fun when a good test score is a natural result of time spent learning…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by turning sheets of paper into dragons, frogs, and flowers. Fortunately, access to origami instruction has changed drastically since the days I used to forage through book after book of origami illustrations in the school library. Oh, the convenience of the Internet!

Origami and Visual-Spatial Skills

Engineers, architects, software user experience designers, and myriad other professionals excel because of their visual-spatial skills. Paper-folding may seem like a strange way to develop skills for such high-tech professions. When working with origami, you’ll practice some of these skills:

  • Diagram Interpretation
  • 2-d and 3-d Rotation Visualization
  • Design Manipulation

How Can I Get Started?

Start by picking a simple design and trying to fold it. Peruse a few websites (Option 1Option 2, Option 3) until a design catches your eye. Along the way, make sure to digest key terms like mountain fold, valley fold, and reverse fold. Become acquainted with the concept of building a base.

From there, you can progress toward more difficult designs. Instructions for creating the dolphin from the video above can be found here.

Can Working with Origami Help My ACT Score?

Visual-Spatial skills such as mental rotation, spatial perception, and spatial visualization have been linked to higher ACT Math scores (Sorby and Baartman, 2000). You’ll see those same skills tested in these recently released ACT Math items:

Reflection over the y-axis?


Lines of Symmetry?


Interpreting a diagram:


Ratio of areas?



Try it. Share it.

I get a real kick out of completing a new design. I hope you do, too. If you’re intrigued by origami, try it and share your creation on our Facebook page. You’ll be having fun and practicing critical skills!

-Kendal Shipley, Ed.D.

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