Draw an ellipse using string and 2 pins

This is not a true Euclidean construction as defined in Constructions - Tools and Rules but a practical way to draw an ellipse given its width and height and when mathematical precision is not so important. It is sometimes called the "Gardener's Ellipse", because it works well on a large scale, using rope and stakes, to lay out elliptical flower beds in formal gardens.

You can also calculate the positions of the focus points. See Foci of an Ellipse.

Printable step-by-step instructions

The above animation is available as a printable step-by-step instruction sheet, which can be used for making handouts or when a computer is not available.

Try it yourself

Click here for a printable worksheet containing an ellipse drawing problem. When you get to the page, use the browser print command to print as many as you wish. The printed output is not copyright.

Constructions pages on this site




Right triangles

Triangle Centers

Circles, Arcs and Ellipses


Non-Euclidean constructions


Math Open Reference now has a Common Core alignment.

See which resources are available on this site for each element of the Common Core standards.

Check it out