Creativity Magazine

More Than One Way to Draw a Circle

Posted on the 09 December 2013 by Rarasaur @rarasaur

When I was very young, my mom used to sit all of us kids down to the table and have us practice our shapes.  This was done in much the same way that other kids practiced their letters.


I don’t know why we did this exercise, but my mom is an undisputed expert in the world of education, so there must be some method to her madness.

My mother is also a supporter of offshoots of the theory of multiple intelligences, which suggests that there are many types of intelligences, and thus many types of learners, in the world.  None is better or worse than the other, though the world most definitely caters to a few and leaves others in the dust.  Part of her life-long initiative in teaching has been to teach teachers how to incorporate multi-method learning habits in their students and multi-method teaching habits in their classrooms.

As such, we were raised under the banner of individualized learning.  With five kids in a 7-year age range, that meant nothing was so simple as throwing down a piece of paper and asking us to just draw a circle.  We are all very different types of learners, but we all learned together so as to train our brains a bit in the ways that were unfamiliar to us.

I was always the last to understand anything– the day we drew circles was no different.

“Draw a circle,” my mom said, handing out blank sheets of paper, making the shape quickly on the whiteboard behind her.

My little sister picked up the pen and deftly drew a circle.  The rest of us floundered and drew circle-like items.


“Good, good,” my mom said, “but try like this.”  Walking around the room, she held the pencils in our hands with us and swirled two perfect circles in the air, and then two perfect circles on our paper.

“Like this?” my little brother asked as he quickly drew 15 perfect circles around his page.  I tried to mimic the movements, but I could still tell it wasn’t supposed to look like what my hands were drawing.  It didn’t even feel like the same balanced writing strokes my mother had used.


“Y’all are doing brilliantly!” my mom exclaimed, “But why don’t we try using the guide?”  We flipped the pages over and saw the familiar writing guide.

How To Draw A Circle

How To Draw A Circle

My older sister smiled confidently, outlined the dashed circle, and then without taking her eyes off the dashed circle, fluently drew three circles right next to it.  The guides always stressed me out more than anything else.  I would panic and inevitably go rogue.

In other words, this is also not a circle.

In other words, this is also not a circle.

Finally, it was just down to my baby brother and myself.  My other siblings were flawlessly completing circle after circle– making larger ones, and concentric ones, and linking them together.  I was panicking.

What if I never learned to make a circle?

My baby brother, zen-like in the face of all obstacles, nudged me out of my panic.  “It’s okay, Rara.” he said with a hapless smile as if I had been speaking out loud. “It’s just a circle.  They don’t even show up in the world.”

My mom corrected him.  “Actually, hon, circles are in the center of many flowers.  They’re in the center of our eyes.  It’s the shape of the Earth herself if you wanted to draw her on a map.” My siblings chimed in with their interpretation of circles, trying to help him understand the importance.

20 years later, my baby brother would call my mom out on the fact that (strictly speaking) the Earth is not a circle.  Not even when flattened.

20 years later, my baby brother would call my mom out on the fact that (strictly speaking) the Earth is not a circle. Not even when flattened.

My brother pondered this.  He went outside to look at the flowers.  He stared up at the sky.  He came back in and stared into my mother’s eyes.  Then he closed his eyes, sang a little song, and drew the perfect circle.

Meanwhile, I had completely malfunctioned:


My dad popped in to see how we were doing and noticed my drawings.  At my mother’s nudging, he tried to explain circles to me in kid-language, which in retrospect was probably an incredibly painful process for someone so versed in mathematics.

“Circles are the same distance from top to bottom and side to side.  Let’s say it takes five steps to get from the middle of the circle to the top edge of the circle.  Then it’ll take 5 steps to get from the middle to the bottom, or the middle to the right, or the middle to the left.  If you draw an X through your circle and connect the lines of the X, you’ll have a perfect square.  There’s no edges.  That’s a circle.”

And suddenly– blissfully– despite the totally blank expressions of my siblings– I understood.  I scribbled on my paper, and added a finishing flair, then proudly showed my dad.

“What do you think?” I asked.

The PERFECT Circle

The Perfect Circle

“I think you made a perfectly beautiful circle look a little creepy.” he joked.

I agreed completely.

It was a perfectly beautiful circle.

* * *

School was always a breeze for me, in no little part due to my understanding of my learning style.  The panic of being handed a guide or template has never gone away, but I’ve learned to adjust to it.  Sometimes, I just turn the sheet over and work on the blank side until I feel comfortable enough to face the outlines.  I take notes on lectures and re-read them because I know that just the words won’t be enough.  I annotate and carry reference guides with me because the popularized miniature definitions and explanations often go over my head.  I require a little more information than the average person and I wasn’t raised to be embarrassed by that, though I’ve met many similar learners through the years who were.

I’m continually amazed by learners like my siblings, husband, or friends– who extrapolate data naturally and seamlessly work life knowledge into everyday learning– but I don’t begrudge them the magical pathway they have to understanding.  It is what it is.  As long as I focus on the task and accomplish my goals, I try not to stress about how it is done.

There’s more than one way to draw a circle.


What type of learner are you?  What did your parents do for a living? Whenever I tell these stories, I’m hit by the realization that I probably grew up in a strange home with my two super-teachers as parents.  I bet most kids did most of their learning at school or on their own, but to this day– I think most of my learning has been done at the side of my parents…

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