For months and months, and MONTHS, every time I’d shop at Lucky’s I’d see these amazing circular tin cookie cutters all neatly nested in a round tin box with a lid. At some point I finally decided that even if I never used them they were something I wanted in my life, but I had no idea what to do with them (I don’t do a lot of baking). Then, a few months back, my Math Art Family Night event was booked for a PreK, K & 1st grade school. I knew my current programming engaged both kids and their adults but I had a sense that I needed something extra for this school.  I eventually decided to use the circle cookie cutters for a new collaborative circle mural station. With the guidance of my wonderful math art collaborator, book artist Paula Krieg, we hashed out the logistics and just this week I was able to set it up and see what might happen.


I put two long tables end to end and covered them with one long piece of paper, set out the materials, traced a large circle in the middle of the paper and used a smaller circle to overlap the first big circle. The station was hosted by an enthusiastic teacher and I had six other stations to support. However, every time I circled back (ha!) to the mural I was always delighted to see what had transpired, especially the mathematical thinking and making that happened there. Here are some of the things I observed in the mural.


During my first check-in I was delighted at what had transpired. I never met young Jesse but he is my “parts and wholes” hero.

There were some other interesting explorations of the circles as well [See below].

In particular, I love the the colorful and whimsical right angle-ish-ness of the circle in the first image on the left. I also love the simplicity and the parallel vertical and horizontal lines interacting in the top right hand image. The image on the bottom right seems to emanate from a center point inside the hand-drawn circle.

Finally, although not officially partitioning, I love this image of an adult-traced circle and a kid’s cute little concentric circles inside.

Photo Apr 11, 7 04 06 PM

It was also interesting to me how kids preferred to draw their circles freehand. Paula posited that “the reason they [little kids] prefer to draw free hand are 1) it’s easier and 2) the circles look just fine, even perfect, to their eyes.” I think they look perfect too!

I also noticed that the kids’ work was often a sort of interaction between the kids and what the kids made out of the adult work. 

Most of all I noticed that the adults traced, but it was the the kids who really explored. 

Malke Rosenfeld is a dance and math art teaching artist, author, editor, math explorer, and presenter whose interests focus on the learning that happens at the intersection of math and the moving body. She delights in creating rich environments in which children and adults can explore, make, play, and talk math based on their own questions and inclinations.

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