If you’ve never used tangrams before, this is a great activity to try them out! Tangrams are a great math tool and an easy way to introduce math concepts such as, shapes, flips, slides, turns, and even congruence. I did not have a class set of tangrams, so I made some out of felt. You could quickly and easily make some out of foam or even construction paper too. I introduced them to my students by telling them that we were going to do some puzzles together. Everyone was very excited to use their own tangram!
I started by handing out a bag filled with a tangram along with a sheet of laminated paper to each student. (I laminated a class set of yellow sheets of paper that we use when working with small manipulatives. It helps to keep materials from going missing and helps keeps everyone’s materials contained in front of them.)
Once everyone had their tangram, I gave children time to explore and play with the pieces. Since tangrams were new to most kids, I wanted them to get familiar with the pieces before we started our puzzles.
I had a large tangram that I used on my felt board to model the puzzles. Together we discussed what shapes students saw (triangles, square, parallelogram). I made sure to point out that there were 2 large triangles, 1 medium and 2 small triangles. Looking at the shapes in this way is also a good chance to discuss congruence (same shape and size).
Once everyone was familiar with the shapes, we started on our puzzles! I used the story “Leah’s Adventure” to guide our lesson. (Story available through Teachers Pay Teachers. Click here to view.) I read the story aloud to everyone, stopping as I got to each new shape/puzzle. I like using the story format because it is an easy way to blend language arts with math. It also keeps children more engaged.
For the first few shapes, I created the puzzle with students piece by piece. I modeled how I sometimes had to flip and rotate my pieces to get them into the proper place. This helped students to see that it is okay to not get the pieces in the right place on their first try.
Part of solving the tangram puzzle is trial and error. We worked through the story creating each puzzle. I was amazed at how much students improved at creating their tangram puzzle by the time we got to our last picture. They were so excited when they were able to create it independently.
There was so much language and math involved in this activity, but students were just having fun figuring out puzzles! Aren’t these some of the best math periods? For me it was rewarding to see so many children persist to figure out each puzzle. It was also interesting to watch how basic math concepts (flips, slides and turns) are introduced at this level and built on year after year in school. I feel that this activity creates a great foundation to build upon.
For the story, which includes 6 different tangram pictures to create and a story that turns the math activity into an adventure. Click the picture below.