Compass Mandalas

The word “mandala” comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “circle” and has it’s roots in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.  We know mandalas as circular designs with radial symmetry and repeating patterns.  Mandalas can be found today in a variety of cultures as well as in nature. (Ask students where they have seen circles, or patterns with circles, in nature or in man-made objects.) This mandala project uses important math skills to create a beautiful, symmetrical design.
Diameter – a straight line passing from side to side across the center of a circle
Circumference – the distance around a circle


  • 9 x 9 white construction paper
  • Compass and pencil
  • Markers or colored pencils
1. Use a ruler to find the center of your paper.  Lay the ruler corner to corner, across your paper, and make a light mark in the middle.  Repeat with the other two corners so that you have a very light “x” in the center of your paper.
2. Set your compass to about 5cm.
3. Place the point on the center of your paper and draw a circle.
4. Carefully lift your compass and erase the “x”.
5. Without moving the arms of your compass, place the point anywhere on the circumference and draw another circle.
6. Now place the point on one of the places where your circles intersect and draw another circle.
7. Keep drawing circles until you have completed your pattern.
8. Color your design by outlining each separate shape with a marker or colored pencil and  fill in, coloring all one direction.

Experiment with other designs you can make by placing your compass point where different lines intersect.  Try using specific color schemes (such as warm or cool colors, analogous colors, complimentary colors, etc.) or patterns to fill in each area of your design.  So many ways you can go with this project!

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9 Responses to Compass Mandalas

  1. Luke January 26, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    What's great is the design you've chosen (you may know this already) is considered sacred geometry and you created what's known as the “seed of life” part of the “flower of life” which can be used to derive the more complex “Metatron's cube.”

  2. Sandi a::k::a KnitMyRhino January 26, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

    I love this blog. I learn something all the time, and I'm certainly not a kid. Albeit, my son does reap the rewards. Thank for your devotion to this blog!

  3. TeachKidsArt January 27, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Thanks, Sandi! And Luke, I didn't know any of that… thanks For sharing!! :)

  4. theartofeducation February 1, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    This is another great way to teach kids radial symmetry. I might try this with my kiddos as an intro to my radial project. The more exposure the better! Thanks for all you share.

  5. The Art Teacher March 18, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    This is great – I think this could be easily adapted for younger kids using circle tracers. Thanks for all the background info!

  6. me November 19, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    Great for my math class!

  7. seashell April 27, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    how do mandalas teach infants and toddlers math?

    • Cheryl Trowbridge April 29, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

      Basic geometry involves learning the names of shapes and beginning to recognize these shapes in nature as well as man-made objects. Pointing out circles, patterns made with circles, and objects with symmetry is a great place to start!


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