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!


  1. 5 Fun Math-Related Art Projects for San Carlos Elementary & Middle School Kids! - June 3, 2013

    […] as you choose to make it, and all you need is a com­pass, pen­cil, and some col­or­ing mate­ri­als! Click here for the simple […]

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