Siddhi Desai

Dream. Create. Insπre

Rangoli Designs – Connecting Art, Culture, and Mathematics

Materials needed:

  • Square or Isometric Dot Paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Markers, crayons, or watercolors (optional)
  • Rice powder, colored rice, or sand (optional)

Cultural Connections:

Rangoli is a form of ancient Indian art created on square or isometric dot grid. The word rangoli is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘rangavalli’ and means colorful lines (rang = color, oli = line) (Bapat, 2008). India is country of diverse cultures and languages, hence in different parts of the county this art form is known by various names – Rangoli (Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra), Kolam (Tamil Nadu), Chowkpurana (Uttar Pradesh), Madana (Rajasthan), Muggu (Andhra Pradesh), Alpana (Bengal), Jhoti (Odisha), and Aripana (Bihar).

Traditionally these intricate and beautiful patterns are made with whole or ground rice. The powder used is either white or colorful, and either wet or dry depending on which part of the country you are in. Traditional designs incorporate references to nature and culture, and the colors in the traditional art form were extracted from natural dyes, like barks of trees, flowers, leaves, etc. Rangolis are particular used to design homes in India during festivals or on auspicious occasions, however in some parts of the country, such designs are still part of a daily practice (Chaki, 2019).

Thoughts for Classroom Implementation:

The simple designs and the mathematical connections would be most appropriate for elementary school aged students and particularly connect to mathematical standards of patterns, symmetry, and fractals. Such opportunities allow students to experience the excitement and beauty of mathematics that build on foundational geometric ideas and elevate student interest in mathematics and related subjects (Desai & Safi, 2020).

These are just some initial thoughts and ideas and I would love to hear about any other thoughts/ideas you may have for using this activity with your students!

Example and Tutorial:

To make it more accessible, I made the example in the first video on square dot paper with readily available materials. Of course if you are up for the challenge and have rice flour or want to make your own rice flour (I have not tested this method yet), the second video is a tutorial (found on youtube) that describes some basic rangoli designs.

For more #MathArtChallenges take a look at Annie Perkin’s blog!


Bapat, M. (2008). Mathematics in Rangolee Art from India. Proceedings of Bridges, p. 429-432. Retreived from:

Chaki, R. (2019, May 7). How an ancient Indian art utilizes mathematics, mythology, and rice. Atlas Obscura.

Cultural India. (n.d.). Rangoli.

Desai, S., & Safi, F. (2020). Mathematical Art: Lost in Translation. NCTM Mathematics Teacher: Learning and Teaching PK-12, 113(1), 96. doi:

One comment on “Rangoli Designs – Connecting Art, Culture, and Mathematics

  1. Pingback: Mandala | Siddhi Desai

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This entry was posted on June 28, 2020 by .
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