Tangrams: A World of Geometry, Part One

Tangrams: A World of Geometry, Part One

The tangram puzzle has been a favorite of mine for many years. When I regularly taught a geometry course for teachers, I would use this puzzle as the opening activity for the course and would then come back to it periodically. Of all the things we did, this puzzle, and the ways it can be used to help students think about a variety of geometric shapes and relationships, was the thing students often said they found most immediately applicable to their classes. I would hear testimonies from teachers across the grades.

It was always my belief that students should have the opportunity to create the puzzle rather than simply be given the puzzle pieces. In the following video, which we did several years ago, I show both how to use paper folding as a way to create the puzzle pieces, and in the process how to see one way they can fit together to form a specified shape. In this case the pieces form a square, but there are many other familiar shapes that can be explored, as well as relationships between shapes (such as similarity of triangles).

Click here for “Tangrams: A World of Geometry, Part Two”.

5 Responses to Tangrams: A World of Geometry, Part One

  1. Like the Amazing Circle The Tangram is rich in Geometry.
    Fun and Engaging. Everyone should make a tangram not just be handed a tangram.
    Excellent teaching by Richard

  2. I’ll never forget the response one of my Algebra students had to tangrams: “If this is what geometry’s like, sign me up right now!” Tangram puzzles could be a wonderful medium for exploring geometric transformations, too. Thanks for reminding me of the tangram’s potential, Richard.

  3. What a great vocabulary lesson as well as a super example of how to “make” the puzzle rather than just give them the pieces. I’ve done a lot with tangrams with third graders and will definitely take this approach as I introduce tangrams this year. Thanks for the great info and demo.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jim. The puzzle is a good one for so many reasons. In the process of folding and cutting students are gaining experiences with partitioning a whole into parts of unequal areas. Once students have created the pieces, they often try to put them back together by trial and error. A great experience for students is to be asked to try to put the pieces back together by recalling the sequence of folds and cuts they made to get the seven pieces.

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