These shell mandalas are a great lesson in math and art.
What to do with a bucket of shells? One art idea we return to often is making mandalas, but we’d never made one from shells before. Time to give it a try!
We started by sorting out our shells into groups, matching by shape, colour and sizes. This is a good opportunity to look at the fine details on the shells, and to talk about which creatures used to live in them.
Then all you need for a mandala is to make a start and let the patterns flow. A circle is a good shape to begin with…
and you can build it up from there, using any colours, patterns and shapes that suggest themselves to you.
Combing math and art
As you’re making your mandala your brain is working with lots of mathematic ideas. You are:
:: counting, and making repeating patterns
:: comparing sizes and finding sizes that match
:: mathing things that are bigger than or smaller than the shell you are placing
:: working with fractions as you place matching shells a quarter and half way around your circle
:: playing with a radius and circumference, even before you might know their names
The finished shell mandala can be as big and detailed as you like.
It might have a flower shape, or be made of circles, or any design you want.
But beware – mandala-making is catching! You might find yourself making mini mandalas on the kitchen table, using tiny stones you’ve hidden in your pocket.
More creative math activities
If you like combining math and art, and if you’re looking for play-based exploration and discovery of math and science concepts, come and take a look at our Fizz, Pop, Bang! Playful Science and Math Activities.
And for more math-meets art resources, join my ART of CIRCLES workshop.