Thank you for your interest in NCTM’s Illuminations. Beginning in mid-April, all Illuminations content will be moving to Interactives will remain openly available and NCTM members will have access to all Illuminations lessons with new filtering and search options. We hope you will continue to utilize and enjoy these resources on

Pin it!
Google Plus

Who Was Wassily Kandinsky?

Maggie Williams
Location: unknown

This lesson provides students with an exploration of the geometric figures Wassily Kandinsky used in his art. Students participate in a scavenger hunt to become familiar with Kandinsky’s works and the geometric figures used in his paintings.

To assess prior learning, have students identify different shapes and lines used in the classroom. Discuss the relationship between these shapes and lines and those in previous lessons.

Ask students to use only a square to create a simple picture of an animal. Have students describe how the shape they selected dictated the animal they created or how the animal they selected dictated the shape they used. This focuses student’s attention on the relationship between properties of figures and their uses.

To begin the lesson, organize students in pairs at computers, and ask them to research the artist Wassily Kandinsky. Give them 5-7 minutes to find several sites with Kandinsky paintings, and then encourage them to identify the various geometric figures Kandinksy used in his paintings. If printers are available, you may wish to have each pair of students print images of Kandinsky's work and share them with the class while describing the geometric figures that they found.

After a period of exploration, distribute the Scavenger Hunt Activity Sheet.

pdficonScavenger Hunt Activity Sheet 

Have each pair of students select one painting that is their favorite. Explain that the class will discuss the location of each of the items on the list once the pairs of students complete their searches. Collect the Scavenger Hunt results from each student to use in the next lesson.

Have students write a description of the shapes, color schemes, and designs Kandinsky used in his paintings. Collect these work samples and review them for students’ understanding of geometric figures and their properties.

Assessment Option 

At this stage of the unit, students should know how to:

  • Identify the geometric figures Wassily Kandinsky uses in his art
  • Describe how Wassily Kandinsky uses geometric shapes to create paintings

As you read the student descriptions of Kandinsky’s work, watch for appropriate and inappropriate uses of geometric vocabulary.


Move on to the next lesson, Seeing Geometry in Art

Teacher Reflection 

  • What patterns did students recognize in Kandinsky’s work with regard to shapes, color schemes, and design?
  • How was the scavenger hunt effective in getting students involved and interested in artwork? What other strategies might be effective in engaging students’ interest in Kandinsky’s work?
  • What kinds of mathematical ideas did the students learn about Kandinsky and his work as they completed the scavenger hunt?
  • What adjustments in the instructional plan or instructional activities should be made the next time I teach this lesson?

Working with Shapes

Students review basic geometric terms related to triangles. They explore these terms and other geometric concepts by modeling them on the geoboard.

More Work with Shapes

Students continue to explore geometric concepts by modeling on the geoboard.  Communication is the Process Standard emphasized in this lesson.

Finding Lines of Symmetry

Students identify lines of symmetry and congruent figures. They explore these concepts with paper cutting and modeling on the geoboard.

Seeing Geometry in Art

Students use paintings studied in the previous lesson to connect their knowledge of geometric shapes and terms with Kandinsky’s use of geometric figures.

Mirroring Kandinsky

This lesson allows students to apply what they have learned in previous lessons by designing their own art. Students use Kandinsky’s style of art and their own creativity to make paintings that reflect their understanding of geometry.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify the geometric figures Wassily Kandinksy used in his art.
  • Describe how Wassily Kandinksy used geometric shapes to create paintings.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Describe location and movement using common language and geometric vocabulary.
  • Build and draw geometric objects.
  • Create and describe mental images of objects, patterns, and paths.
  • Recognize geometric ideas and relationships and apply them to other disciplines and to problems that arise in the classroom or in everyday life.