Zentangle, Graph Paper, and Pancake Art

My recent doodling.

Some recent doodling, by me.

Welcome to this week’s Math Munch!

As you start a new school year, you might be looking for some new mathy doodle games to play in the margins of your notebooks. Doodling helps me to listen sometimes, and I love making neat patterns. I especially like seeing what new shapes I can make.

This summer I was very happy to run across Zentangle®—”an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and fun way to create beautiful images by drawing structured patterns.” I’ve learned a lot about Zentangle from a blog called Tangle Bucket by Sandy Hunter. She shares how to doodle snircles, snafoozles, and oodles. There’s a whole dictionary of zentangle shapes over at tanglepatterns.com.

My favorite idea in Zentangle is trying to combine two kinds of designs. Sometimes this is described as one pattern “versus” another one. For instance, check out these:


Maybe you’ll pick some tangle patterns to combine with each other. If you try some, maybe you’ll share them in our Readers’ Gallery.

Sandy writes:

It’s so true that the more I tangle, the more I see the potential in patterns all around me. I catch myself mentally deconstructing them (whether I want to or not) to figure out if they can be broken down into simple steps without too much effort. That’s the trademark of a good tangle pattern.

Try some of Sandy’s weekly challenges, or check out Tiffany Lovering’s time-lapse videos—here’s one with music and one with an interview. Can you learn the names of any of the shapes she creates? I spy a Rick’s Paradox. There are lots of ways to begin zentangling—I hope you enjoy giving it a try.

Squares and dots and crosses, oh my!

Squares & dots & crosses, oh my!

If zentangling is too freeform for your doodling tastes, then let me share with you one of my longtime favorite websites. I’ve used it for years to help me to do math and to teach math, and it’s great for math doodling, too. I might even call it a trusty friend, one that I met one day through the simple online search: “free online graph paper”.

That’s right, it’s Free Online Graph Paper.

Something I love about the site is that it lets you design different aspects of your graph paper. Then you can print it out. First you get to decide what kind of grid you would like: square? triangular? circular? Then you get to tinker with lots of variables, like how big the grid cells are, how dark the lines are, and what color they are. And more!

Free Online Graph Paper was created by Kevin MacLeod, who composes music and shares it for free. That way other people can use it for creative projects. That’s really awesome! I enjoyed listening to Kevin’s “Winner Winner“. It’s always good to be reminded that everything you use or enjoy was almost certainly made by a person—including custom graph paper websites!

A 7/3 star spirocake.

A 7/3 star spirocake.

Last up this week is some doodly math that you can really munch on. Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and that the most important food group is roulette curves.

To get your daily recommended allowance of groovy math, look no further than the edible doodles of Nathan Shields and his family over at Saipancakes.

I can wait until the Shields family tackles the cissoid of Diocles.

Bon appetit!

82 responses »

    • I like the Zen tangle patterns that you did it was a great video. Were should I start off if I want to do it. I so glad I saw this I think l might start out trying to do one. Zen tangle is so cool once again great video.

    • Hi Mary,
      Thanks for reading, and thanks for your comment. I’m obviously not an expert on what “counts” as Zentangling. I don’t think I’ve said anything incorrect in my post, though, and I’ll let Tiffany’s work stand on it’s own merits.
      Would I have to become a Certified Zentangle Teacher in order to call something I do “zentangling”?

  1. I actually did not know that pancake art was a real thing or hobby. It is crazy how you can get perfect shapes and designs and then cook them!!

    • Hi Shelby,
      Isn’t it amazing all of the creative ideas that people come up with? I was surprised and delighted to run across pancake art, too. What neat idea will you try to make happen? Thanks for reading!

  2. dang this is pretty inpressive how you turned pancakes in fun and cool shapes that you an eat this is very intersting nice job!!!

    • Hi JP,
      Combining things is so fun! I feel like math helps me to see the world in new ways and encourages me to make patterns and try things out. I hope you’ll use math in this way, too, to make great creations!
      Thanks for reading and commenting here on Math Munch.

  3. I think it is so cool how they can make pancake art and do it so successfully. I’m pretty jealous because I try to do pancake art and make simple stuff like hearts but fail. This video has inspired me to get a bunch of equipment to finally getting my pancakes to look like Mickey Mouse and hearts instead of big horrible blobs.

  4. Hi I was wondering if you knew what the red ritz cracker shaped thing he was using was and also if you knew what the white circle thing that I think looked a tiny bit like a toliet seat was?

  5. that is so cool how they make shapes out of pancakes. I always try to make shapes out of pancakes but they always come out to look like a big mess. This video inspired me to keep trying to make pancake art and not to give up. I cant belive how cool the pancakes look . I hope i can find more videos like this

    • Hi Natalie,
      Definitely don’t give up—there are too many amazing things to try and to get better at. We hope you can find more to try and more to be inspired by here on Math Munch. Thanks for commenting!

  6. This was really neat! What a great introduction to math munch. These were some really neat links, and I really want to try zentangling.

  7. I really enjoyed your video. The way all the distinct patterns mixed together to form a entrancing new art form was amazing and extremely beautiful. the entricate designs played together so well in the video that I am willing to try it out in my free time sometime. Thx for the awesome inspiration!

  8. I loved the beautiful and entricate designs of the zentangle. The video is really inspiring by bring all her different patterns and creating a whole new piece of art had a deep meaning to me because I am usually a “Math-hater”, but this doesn’t seem like math which makes me think I would enjoy it. Thx for the truly inspiring take on math!

    • Hi Sharny,
      I’m glad you’ve found some math to enjoy in zentangling. Creating patterns, expanding on patterns, varying patterns—these are all very mathematical activities.
      Everyone has parts of math that are not their favorites. You can love math and still not like parts of it. It sounds like your on your way to being a math-lover instead of a math-hater. We hope you’ll find more to be inspired by on Math Munch! Thanks for your comment.

  9. i like the Zen tangle patterns. its just amazing i see that shes using mathematics shapes as art and i think thats beautiful.one question i have about this amazing video is where did she get all does ideas from and does she know shes using mathematical shapes as art???

    • Hi Joheily,
      I’m glad you enjoyed finding out about Zentangle. Those are great questions you’ve shared. I know that there is a whole lot of Zentangle “theory” that’s been built up—specific doodles that get used thematically over and over again. http://tanglepatterns.com/ has many.
      I’m curious, too, as to what Zentanglers would say about whether what they do is mathematical. Maybe we should ask a few! Thanks for the idea, and thanks for reading.

  10. Wow. I watched the whole zentangle video with my mouth open. It looks so complicated! Is zentangle all math or does it require artisistic abilities?

  11. I really like this video on Sandy doing tangle patterns because i really like doodling and i like how it looks. But her doodling is crazy it is so detailed

  12. This is really cool, I didn’t even know that there was such thing as pancake art. It is such a beautiful creation with the different designs.

  13. This pancake and zentangle art is amazing. I never thought of math in this kind of way, using it as a career for a lifetime. I am not very good at drawing but I truly admire the way the drawers used lines of symmetry and many other math related things to draw and make these extraordinary pictures. I have one question though, who was the first person to make a zentange piece of artwork? It is great artwork and I am glad I watched these videos.

  14. Zentangling is such a cool way to doodle! It makes doodling seem so much more professional. Though the patterns for zentangle, are they permanent or can you create your own?

  15. That is so amazing literally those are the prettiest pancakes I have ever seen. But how did you put the batter on fast enough in that specific patern quickly enough in enough time so it won’t burn?

  16. It was really cool how she made all of those really cool designs. I actually tried some of the designs and they are way more hard then they appear she is very talented on how she draw them but the are still very fun to draw!!!

  17. Wow! I watched both the zentangle and pancake video they both look like they require so much skill! I think they were both great ideas that came from very creative minds! How did you come up with making pancakes into a beautiful work of art?

  18. that is so creative you can make art even out of food . What I noticed is it took a good amount of time and patience to start it in the first place. I WILL SO try this it looks so much fun

  19. I am mind blown!! I did not think you could make art with pancakes!! Plus making it out of pancakes makes it even better who doesn’t love pancakes!!! And I love the design!! I cant believe it!!

  20. Zentangle took a lot of mins. but this was a pretty advanced thing to do but if you know how to do it and you are a very good artist maybe you can do it well but what would I like to tell the person who did this How long did it take you to do all that drawling a swirls because if I have done this I would maybe finish it by a year I will also like to say what gave you the idea to create this piece of art which is very created thank you to the person who did this beautiful art!

  21. wow !!! What a creative idea …. that is so awesome how u can a change lumpy boring circle pancake and make the boring shape into cool shapes and symbols ! Its kinda hard to make one perfect regular pancake, one day ill try making a cool shapes . I love the idea and its mine blowing how this can turn a yummy pancake to a yummy and cool shape pancake s!!!!!!

  22. this video was so cool! i totally wish that i could have thought of the tasty idea first! It is so cool how this family’s creative mind thought of something so fun and creative. i want to do this sooo bad, and i think that i will first draw something, then make it!

  23. The video of the zentangle drawing’s were amazing! I think I want to try out zentangling. The detail of the drawing was even better when she colored it and mixed the darks and lights together. Also I loved the way she kind of mixed simple and hard sketches together in one. I have a question for Sandy, are there some patterns that you made of your own or got an idea from someone else?

    • Hi Joey,

      Yeah, isn’t it great how math can be an inspiration to make things! Sheds a whole new light on math, right? Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration of your own on Math Munch. Who knows when inspiration will strike? Bon appetit!


  24. wow I have never thought of making pancake art and the way that he does it must require a very very steady hand to fill in the lines

  25. I fond this video cool I have two question, what colored pencils would you recommend and how do you just start and then just keep going.

    • Hi Hailee,
      I recommend getting in touch with with the artists themselves to ask these questions. Ask you parents or teacher for help in doing this if you need some. For your second question, my sense is that if you get started, the rhythm of doodling will help you keep going. Just get into the groove!
      Thanks for reading and comment. I hope you find lots of math to like on Math Munch.
      Bon appetit!

  26. Wow! That was really amazing i never knew that you can make a pancake into art like that. I really like how he did those strings of pancake like a shoe lace.

  27. How do you even do zentangle?!?!?!?!?!? I am a terrible artist but this is completely amazing! It must have taken years to figure out how to do it that well! I can’t even fathom how she does that! She makes it look so easy! One question though: I was reading throughout the other comments and I don’t really understand how she’s not a zentangler. If she’s not, then what is zentangle? Thank you!

  28. Zentangle looks cool, clever and creative. Even though zentangle is a bunch of patterns, it all fits and looks good together colliding as one pattern.

  29. I never knew that you could make pancakes like that, that is so cool I really want to see more and next time I make pancakes i will try my best to make them like that.

  30. The zentangling video was really interesting. How long did it take you to make that doodle? In the beginning of the article there is a picture of zentangle on graph paper but in your video you didn’t use graph paper. Do you think it is easier to do zentangle on graph paper when you are a beginner? How much time does it save to use graph paper instead of unlined?

  31. I love art and this clip inspired me to try this, it did not turn out like i wanted it too but i’ll try it again. I thought it was very creative and fun. I never seen anything like this, i was in shock once i saw the finished result. I would like to know some Technique too make it look nice and i would also like to know what inspired the artist to do this?

  32. I really liked this video because all these amazing things in 1 paper and I really like how he put loots of detail into it.I really hope lots of people do this cause its really cool and fun!

  33. wow i did not know you could make art with pancakes like that will be the last thing i will thought of.Really nice video guys

  34. I never knew geometry could be in pancakes. This was a really creative idea that I don’t think anyone else ever would have thought of. It’s still a little confusing as to how they were able to make the really thin lines with pancake batter though.

  35. Pingback: Nice Neighbors, Spinning GIFs, and Breakfast | Math Munch

  36. I have heard a lot about Zentangling but I don’t know a lot about it. How could this be used in a 6th grade math classroom? What standards could this align with?

    • Hi Amanda! Great question. While I don’t know what the 6th grade standards are in your neighborhood, here’s what comes to mind. First, the modular structure of Zentangling makes me think there could be cool connections with fraction tasks and operations. Instead of just doing area models using rectangles, there could be Zentangle shapes as well. And students could make their own problems, too! Second, because of the way that Zentangles grow, they could be pair really nicely with Visual Patterns tasks, like those found here: http://www.visualpatterns.org/ This kind of pre-algebra task is something I sometimes did with 6th grade classes I taught. I hope those thoughts are useful to you. I’m also going to toss your question out to Twitter and see if other folks have some other ideas. Thanks for reading! I hope you’re enjoying the site.

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