Wheel of Theodorus Art Project Ideas

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Geometry can be a lot of fun when students are given the freedom to express their creativity. These art projects can help you teach students about geometry using the wheel of Theodorus.

The Wheel of Theodorus

The wheel (or spiral) of Theodorus is a design in which right triangles are arranged to create a spiral. Each triangle forms one side of the next triangle, so impacts its size and dimensions. This can be a fun way to get students involved in geometry. These project ideas do not teach students the equations or calculations necessary to complete the wheel of Theodorus (it assumes that students have been taught this skill) but does provide several ways to turn this into a fun art project.

Wheel of Theodorus Art Projects

Paint an Animal

Students will start by creating the wheel of Theodorus, then think about ways they could use this as part of a design for an animal. Many students will find that the pattern resembles the shells of turtles or crustaceans, but others may see the fanning feathers of a bird or a curly tail. Whatever students decide, they will paint an image of an animal incorporating this design. The background of the painting should establish the setting/habitat for this animal, and students should strive to build this setting using other geometric shapes and patterns. When students are done, have them display their artwork around the classroom.

  • Materials: Ruler/straight edge, pencils, calculators, canvas/paper, paintbrushes, paints, other math or art supplies as desired

Spiral Staircase

Students will start by drawing the wheel of Theodorus onto construction paper (or another sturdy paper). They will then cut out each triangle. Give them the option to paint the triangles, or decorate them in any other fashion. Give students a base like a foam block or piece of cardboard. They will draw a large circle on this base, and in the exact center of that circle place a tall, thin post (depending on how big you want this project to be, this could be a straw or a pool noodle). Students will take the first triangle and glue it to the base, so that the corner on the inside of the spiral is touching the post. They will take the next triangle and glue toothpicks (cut into small segments) perpendicular to two of the corners (forming legs, like a small table) and glue the third corner to the post so that this triangle is slightly elevated above the previous one. Students will repeat this, elevating each triangle at a consistent rate, until they've created a spiral staircase using the triangles. When you look down on it from above, the wheel of Theordorus should be visible.

  • Materials: Sturdy paper, foam blocks or cardboard, toothpicks, craft knives/scissors, glue (a quick bonding glue you are comfortable using), rulers, a tall thin object for the central post, other math and art supplies as desired

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