Tangrams are a STEM learning tool that helps build a variety of important STEM skills in children as young as preschool, but also all the way through to teens. A simple concept with powerful, brain growth positive results. Tangrams are a fantastic addition to your classroom learning centers or home lessons.
Tangram Printable Activity
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Like building blocks or Lego, Tangrams are wonderful for teaching about spatial relationships. In addition, they are a powerful tool in mathematics. Students learn geometric vocabulary and strong communicators in math concepts. They also become capable problem solvers, confident in their critical thinking skills. There are even indications that working on Tangram puzzles can increase achievements in math.
Recently, we talked about Math Anxiety and how to tackle anxiety around numbers. One of the techniques we discussed was building foundational skills for math using games. Tangrams are a fantastic tool for helping tackle math anxiety.
So let’s dig in a bit and learn more about Tangrams.
What is a Tangram?
Tangrams were invented in China over 200 years ago. The simple concept has some incredible, mind growth impacts. The traditional Chinese puzzle is a square divided into seven pieces called Tans. The seven pieces include: one parallelogram, one small square and five triangles (2 large right triangles, 1 medium right triangle and 2 small right triangles).
You solve the puzzle by arranging the pieces to match certain designs. Simply, you could arrange them into a large square, rectangle or triangle, or you can tackle more complex shapes like animals, plants or a house.
You can also use Tangrams for free play and encourage kids to come up with their own creations.
Learn more about Tangrams through history from this incredible resource.
Tangram STEM Skills
There are a number of educational benefits to using Tangrams.
First, it teaches some incredibly positive geometry skills. Students learn to recognize and identify geometric shapes. They will also become confident in understanding geometry and how geometric shapes can be decomposed and recomposed into new shapes.
Second, it builds visual-spatial skills as kids learn how to manipulate the shapes. Turning, flipping, and manipulating them in comparison with the other pieces as they build the shapes. To solve the puzzles, students need to visualize how the pieces fit together, then make the correct changes.
Third, working with Tangrams is incredibly creative. Challenging students to create designs brings Art into STEM work.
In addition, there are indications that doing tangrams helps students with achievement on math tests and provides greater understanding of mathematical concepts. Learn more about one study here.
Free Tangram Printable
Try out the power of Tangrams in your math learning centre or just for fun at home with our Tangram Printable.
This printable includes:
- Colour your own Tangram pieces (print on card stock or laminate to help them last longer)
- Tangram Challenge Cards that include visual challenges and keyword inspirations for students to use their imaginations
Members of the STEAM Powered Family get this printable free of charge. Members simply unlock the printable by putting in your email address. New members will gain access to this printable and many other educational resources, including weekly emails with the latest content. Welcome to the Family!
Tips for Teaching with Tangrams
If you just hand most children a Tangram puzzle they will likely struggle. It is better to use Tangrams as a manipulative and tool in your lesson.
Here are some ideas about how to use Tangrams in your lessons.
Start by having students cut up the large square into the Tangram pieces. This builds fine motor skills and also has them see how the large square decomposes into the smaller pieces.
Now have the child name each shape as they colour it. Talk about what makes a triangle a right triangle. Have the student colour both sides of the paper.
After all the pieces are coloured, ask them try and put all the pieces back together in the large square. Help them if needed.
Now use terminology to talk about how you can manipulate the pieces. Use terms like flip and rotation.
Start putting together the pieces in some simple shapes. Let the child lead and create their own shapes if they wish. Or use the challenge cards to get started.
When using the challenge cards you can either give the shapes cards to the kids and have them copy the shape, or name the shape and keep the card hidden while they create the shapes. Then use the cards to compare how they built it, to how it was designed on the card.
As the students gain confidence move to the more advanced challenges. Most of all have fun!
More Tangram Puzzles