What are tangrams?
A tangram is a traditional Chinese puzzle made up of seven geometric shapes. These shapes, also called tans, include one parallelogram, one square, and five triangles (two small triangles, one medium triangle, and two large triangles). All seven tangram pieces can fit together to form one large square, rectangle, or triangle.
Tans can be arranged in various combinations to build pictures and match designs. To correctly solve a traditional tangram puzzle, no shapes can overlap or go outside the outline. There can be no empty spaces inside the outline either. Usually, it takes several attempts and rearrangements to solve a tangram puzzle. While tangrams are typically treated as puzzles, there are numerous ways to play with tangrams. One of the easiest ways is to let children use the pieces to create their own unique designs.
Why should I use tangrams?
There are many benefits to incorporating tangrams into your classroom instruction. Not only are tangrams fun, but important skills can be developed when using these manipulatives. Spatial reasoning is fostered as students have to rotate, flip and envision how different pieces will fit together. Tangrams are great for developing critical thinking skills as students have to think rationally when they join shapes to create pictures and designs.
Tangrams are great for differentiating assignments. It is simple to tailor the difficulty of each puzzle to match each student’s ability level. They can also be used to develop specific mathematical concepts involved with fractions, symmetry, congruence, area, perimeter, and many other topics related to geometry.
An easy activity for reinforcing fractions would start with students using all seven pieces to form a large square. The large square represents the whole. Have the students figure out the fraction that each piece of the tangram represents. For example, the large triangle represents one fourth of the whole square. Students love to work with tangrams and these manipulatives are sure to make your students think!