Tangrams are a fun and interactive way to introduce young children to shapes and illustrate how shapes can be grouped together to create a specific object.
Tangrams are a type of dissection puzzle that is said to be originally created in China during the Song Dynasty and then subsequently was brought to Europe in the 19th century (Source Wikipedia). The tangram puzzle consists of 7 shapes including 5 triangles of varying sizes, 1 parallelogram and 1 square. An example of a wooden tangram is shown below:
Tangrams can be used in three different ways:
1) Rearrange the shapes to form an object (ex: animal, person, etc.). For example, you can move the subjects around to make a cat, rabbit, or even a person riding a horse! This method helps children exercise their creativity because they have to think about how to create the object they want to make.
2) Give the child a picture of a pre-made tangram and have them replicate the tangram. If the child is having difficulty making their own tangram from scratch, you can look up “tangram puzzles” on Google and see examples of many different tangrams. The tangram will have the lines so that children can see how the shapes were placed together to make that specific object.
Here are some examples of common tangrams with the lines drawn (shown below):
3) Give the child a picture of the tangram without the lines drawn.The original way to play tangrams is to shown the child a picture of a tangram without the lines. Then it’s up to the child to figure out how to put the shapes together to mimic the object in the photo. This activity is ideal for older children who are accustomed to the tangram puzzle and want to exercise their analytical abilities.
I tried doing this activity with my 5 year old student and she had some trouble figuring out how to put the shapes together. Here are some common tangram puzzles without the lines drawn (shown below):
Overall though, my 5yo student and I had fun playing tangrams! She even learned the word “parallelogram” after we had finished the activity. Here are some paper tangrams that we made together.