Teaching some courses in mathematics requires drawing too many shapes or figures (e.g. Geometry, some parts of calculus, etc.) but I am not good at drawing shapes. Of course I can use slides, but I want to use only blackboard.

Question 1: What to do when a math course needs too many shapes/figures and I'm not good at drawing and also I don't want to use slides at all?

Question 2: How to improve my ability in drawing mathematical shapes? Is there any reference?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ You can consider taking a class in drawing from a local art school or a college. You may end up with the lowest grade in class, but you would still learn a lot about recognizing shapes in the world around you, and putting them down on paper (or blackboard / whiteboard). $\endgroup$
    – StasK
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 15:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Some posts on other sites mentioned a book called Topological Picturebook. For example How were 'old-school' mathematics graphics created? on Math.SE and Reference Request: Perspective Painting on MO. $\endgroup$
    – Martin
    Commented Sep 2, 2014 at 16:56

3 Answers 3


I think the solution for your problem depends very strongly on what sort of course you're teaching. If you really need accurate drawings, then I can't help you; my own drawings are usually pretty bad. But in many circumstances, the drawing need not be very accurate; it just needs to convey the right idea. In that case, I'd suggest doing the best you can while drawing and then alerting the class to the (perhaps obvious) fact that it's not very accurate. I've often drawn some sort of closed convex curve on the board and told the class "Pretend this is a circle."


Several strategies: 1. Practice. Copy illustrations out of books. Start simple. Mix your practice:

  • Draw small copies -- about the same size as the one in the book.
  • Draw full page copies.
  • Draw on the black/white board

    1. If you have access to a projector you can do some impressive illustrations of geometry and calculus using Geogebra. Geogebra has a lot of teaching posibiltiies if your kids have computer access.

    2. You can also used shared applications that echo your iPad to a projector. Some of these allow you to drag in presaved PDF's or images into the screen.

    3. Use a grid of dots as a guide. I covered one whiteboard with a tiny + written in permanent sharpie on 2 inch spacing. Took a couple hours to do. But that made for slick graph sketching.


This is not an answer, and will only make us envious. I think that one reason Robert Ghrist is such an amazingly effective lecturer is that he has a remarkable drawing talent:

See also his Funny Little Calculus Text.


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