“Falling into disuse”: the rise and fall of Froebelian mathematical folding within British kindergartens

Michael Friedman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article aims to present the transformations as well as the decline of the Froebelian occupation of paper folding that took place in Great Britain between 1851 and the 1920s. Froebel’s original intention was to transmit implicit mathematical knowledge to be learnt by means of folding several shapes. In contrast to his account of paper folding, which presented it as a way of understanding several abstract mathematical concepts, the manner in which this occupation was re-conceptualised in Great Britain tells a different story. After surveying the changes in the British conception of Froebelian ideas in the second half of the nineteenth century through the various published manuals, I then explore the period between 1892–the opening of the Froebel Educational Institute–and 1924. Looking at the examination syllabi of the National Froebel Union, the examination papers, and their various appendices, as well as studying the approaches of the British mathematical community to folding at the end of the nineteenth century, the article will try to illuminate–via the inspection of the decline of mathematical education via folding in kindergartens–how formal work became discredited and eventually, in part, disappeared.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)564-587
Number of pages24
JournalPaedagogica Historica
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Froebelian pedagogy
  • Paper folding
  • mathematical education
  • reception of Froebel in Great Britain


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