Math Monday: Compass Art


“In his own magic circle wanders the wonderful man, and draws us with him to wonder and take part in it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe

Doodles are SO underrated!

I highly recommend you set aside some time to doodle. Specifically, to doodle with a compass, some watercolor paper, and as many colored pencils as possible. Get your kids involved, too–you’ll need someone to help guide you along on your doodling path, and kids are the best tutors for this kind of thing.

At Math Club, we are using the book Circles (Let’s Investigate). to guide us on our doodling adventure:

Math Art love!

However, for this exercise, all you need is to learn how to draw circles with a compass. It’s not easy. It’s frustrating. It takes time and focus. It takes patience and forgiveness of your mistakes. But, to get all philosophical on you, that is precisely the point of the journey of doodling. Doodling is like life. You must be present, in the moment, and focused not on perfection but on improvement. These are big concepts for adults to learn, and yet through doodling even children can understand it.


My kids have a writing ‘issue’ called dysgraphia. They would rather light themselves on fire than sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper to write down a thought or an idea. Doodling is something important we do because it puts them in a situation where they feel/are weak, but then transforms it into a strength. Most very visual thinkers have some kind of dysgraphia (or, aversion to writing), and yet they are wonderful doodlers. This is one of the few times I see them bent over paper, intent on writing with a pencil.


Again, do not underestimate the power of the Doodle!

Once you have drawing a circle with a compass worked out (and, Golfer isn’t quite there yet. So, he practices a little and then I take over and he tells me where he wants me to draw his circles on the page.) you can start drawing circle upon circle, noticing the patterns that appear.


And then, you highlight the patterns that interest you, and color away with colored pencils.



This is how the ancients discovered geometry. Drawing it in dirt, experimenting with shape. Seeing a square pop up in the middle of a series of circles. Finding other shapes by connecting different points in a circle. It is a fundamental level of geometry that is lacking in the current teaching of it. Take time to learn and doodle!

My son’s dysgraphia keeps him from enjoying drawing art…people, animals, landscapes. But when he creates circle art, he feels good about himself and what he’s made.


Save the geometry ‘lesson’ and vocabulary for another day. Something profound is happening here! Investigation. Thought. Connection. Magic Circles. And then something even more wonderful happens. You’ll be passing the fruit section in the grocery store and notice (or, even better, your kid will notice) that a pineapple perfectly mirrors one of your circle patterns. You’ll be gazing at a flower and see another one of your patterns inside. And then you’ll go back and doodle some more. As it should be.

Doodling is too important not to encourage!

other Circle Art patterns from some 5th graders.

Before there was high school geometry (with it’s NCLB friendly scope and sequence), there was Sacred Geometry. The latter is so much more inviting than the former, and as easily understood by 8 year olds as it is by adults!