SPY HILL Research

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The Origami Answer Cards

Response system for peer instruction in a folded sheet of paper

We don't need no stinkin' clickers"
The Origami Answer Cards are a simple student response system that does not need electronic hardware. Students simply fold a single sheet of paper (it's easier than folding a Cootie Catcher) and then show one of the 4 choices to the instructor to answer the question. Click on any image to view and download.


Numerical 1, 2, 3, 4

Numerical 5, 6, 7, ?


Alphabetic A, B, C, D

Alphabetic E, F, G, ?


I use these in both large and small classes as a peer instruction activity using conceptual questions from the very useful book
"Peer Instruction - A User's Manual" by Eric Mazur (Prentice Hall, 1997)
and with similar questions that I have created myself (available separately). I think of the best conceptual questions as "Physics Koans," because like koans in Zen Budhism one learns as much or more from thinking about the problem than from just getting the right answer (and in Zen there often isn't a right answer).

How to Use

How I use these in class is similar to Mazur's method:
  1. Present the question, and ask for the "first guess" I tell them not to take too long, just give me your first impression. "The first one doesn't count."

  2. Ask them to show me their answer using the cards. Nobody should be able to see anybody else's answers.

  3. Ask them to talk to their neighbor to compare both answers and the reasoning behind the answer. Who has the better explaination? Can you convince the other person you are right?

  4. Ask them to show their "final" answer. More often than not the students who got it wrong will get it right this time. The students who had guessed the right answer will now have a reason to support their choice, and everyone who got it right (most if not all of the class) will have stronger confidence in their result.

  5. Explain the reasoning. I sometimes ask for a student who found a compelling reason to change their answer to explain how it helped them. I always close by giving my version of the answer to the question, sometimes explaining why it was a tricky question (and they are always somewhat tricky, or it's not worth the time to do this). I never post the solutions.

I do these at the end of a unit, after I've explained the idea, to test their understanding of the idea and to open things up for questions and discussion.

I have found that after I use these in class, even a big lecture class of 80 or more students, I get more questions and more discussion than had I not used these questions.

These kinds of questions work especially well for physical demonstrations. Ask the students to predict the outcome of the demonstration first, and they will pay more attention to the demonstration, the result, and your explanation. The example question of blowing between two sheets of paper shows this, and after folding two cards each student should have two sheets of paper that they can use to try it themselves.

So to get the answer to the question about the two strips of paper, try it yourself. If you don't know the answer to the question about the fox then Google for "What does the fox say?" and view what the fox himself actually says.

Additional Notes

Some sources of conceptual questions use letters, not numbers, such as
"Peer Instruction for Astronomy" by Paul J. Green (Prentice Hall, 2003)
so I also include a set of cards ABCD and DEF? (Green's book does include it's own colored response card.)

Both sets of cards have "?" as one of the choices. This turns out to be very important. It gives the students a way to let me know that they are lost, without them having to ask questions, which some struggling students find hard to do. If I see more than one student presenting the "?" then I know I need to expand my explanation of the material. It is important to not react to the "?" in any direct way that reflects on the student, since they may already feel vulnerable because they don't understand the question or the material it deals with.


Eric Myers
Spy Hill Research
Poughkeepsie, New York


Permission is granted to anybody to copy and use these answer cards in any instructional setting, public or private, undergraduate, secondary, or primary. You may not, however, distribute them on-line, nor may you reproduce these in any other published document or textbook, without additional explicit permission of the author.
If you'd like to use them some other way please do contact me. If you want to share them with others, feel free to link to this page. I will likely change this to an appropriate Creative Commons license once I get the chance to choose the proper one.
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