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Wesley Rogers
Wesley Rogers

The Art and Science of Tangram: A Guide for Teachers and Students

Tangram: A Fun and Educational Puzzle Game

Have you ever played with a tangram? It is a simple yet fascinating puzzle game that consists of seven flat shapes that can be arranged into various figures. It is also a great tool for learning and teaching mathematics, geometry, logic, creativity, and more. In this article, you will learn what tangram is, where it came from, why it is beneficial, and how to play it.

What is Tangram?

Tangram is a type of dissection puzzle that originated in China over 200 years ago. It is made of a square that is cut into seven pieces, called tans, which are five triangles, a square, and a parallelogram. The objective of the game is to use all seven pieces to form different shapes, such as animals, people, letters, numbers, or abstract patterns. The shapes can be given as outlines or silhouettes in a puzzle book, or they can be created by the player's imagination. The only rule is that the pieces must not overlap or leave any gaps.


The origin and history of Tangram

The exact origin of tangram is unknown, but it is believed that it was invented in China sometime around the late 18th century. It was then brought to Europe and America by trading ships in the early 19th century. It became very popular in Europe for a time, especially among intellectuals and artists, who admired its simplicity and elegance. It also gained popularity again during World War I, when it was used as a pastime and a distraction from the horrors of war. It is one of the most widely recognized and played dissection puzzles in the world today.

The seven pieces of Tangram

The seven pieces of tangram are as follows:

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  • Two large triangles

  • One medium triangle

  • Two small triangles

  • One square

  • One parallelogram

All the pieces are right angles or half-squares, except for the parallelogram, which has an acute angle of 45 degrees and an obtuse angle of 135 degrees. The pieces can be rotated or flipped to form different shapes. When all the pieces are put together, they form a square with an area of four units.

The rules and objectives of Tangram

The rules of tangram are simple:

  • Use all seven pieces to form a shape.

  • The pieces must not overlap or leave any gaps.

  • The shape must match the given outline or silhouette exactly.

The objectives of tangram are varied:

  • To solve a given puzzle by finding the correct arrangement of the pieces.

  • To create your own puzzle by drawing an outline or silhouette of a shape.

  • To explore the different shapes that can be formed with the pieces.

  • To have fun and enjoy the challenge.

Why Play Tangram?

Tangram is not only a fun and entertaining game, but also a valuable educational tool. It has many benefits for children and adults alike, such as:

The benefits of Tangram for children and adults

Playing with tangrams can help develop and improve various cognitive and mental skills, such as:

  • Problem-solving and logical thinking skills

  • Perceptual reasoning and nonverbal thinking skills

  • Visual-spatial awareness and orientation skills

  • Creativity and imagination skills

Attention and concentration skills</ The mathematical concepts and skills that Tangram teaches

Tangram is also a great way to learn and practice various mathematical concepts and skills, such as:

  • Geometry and shapes

  • Area and perimeter

  • Angles and symmetry

  • Fractions and ratios

  • Algebra and equations

By manipulating the pieces, one can explore the properties and relationships of different geometric figures, such as congruence, similarity, parallelism, perpendicularity, bisectors, and more. One can also calculate the area and perimeter of the shapes, or compare the fractions and ratios of the pieces. One can also use the pieces to represent variables and constants, and solve simple algebraic equations.

The creative and artistic possibilities of Tangram

Tangram is not only a logical and mathematical game, but also a creative and artistic one. It offers endless possibilities for creating beautiful and interesting designs, such as:

  • Animals and plants

  • People and faces

  • Letters and numbers

  • Symbols and icons

  • Patterns and abstract art

By using different colors, sizes, orientations, and arrangements of the pieces, one can express their imagination and creativity in various ways. One can also combine multiple tangram sets to create larger and more complex shapes. One can also use tangram as a medium for storytelling, communication, or decoration.

How to Play Tangram?

Tangram is easy to play and accessible to anyone. All you need is a tangram set, which you can either buy or make yourself. You also need some tangram puzzles to solve, which you can either find online or in books, or create yourself. Here are some tips on how to play tangram:

How to make your own Tangram set

If you don't have a tangram set, you can easily make one yourself with some simple materials. Here are the steps:

  • Cut out a square piece of paper or cardboard.

  • Fold it in half diagonally to form a triangle.

  • Fold it in half again to form a smaller triangle.

  • Unfold it to see the creases that divide the square into four equal triangles.

  • Cut along one of the creases to separate two triangles.

  • Cut one of the triangles in half along the altitude to form two smaller triangles.

  • Cut the other triangle along the median to form a medium triangle and a parallelogram.

  • Cut the square along the diagonal to form two large triangles.

  • You now have seven pieces that make up a tangram set.

How to find and solve Tangram puzzles

If you want to find some tangram puzzles to solve, you can either search online or look for books that have them. There are many websites that offer free printable tangram puzzles for different levels of difficulty. There are also many books that have collections of tangram puzzles for various themes and topics. Some examples are:

- [Tangrams: 330 Puzzles] by Ronald C. Read - [The Tangram Book: The Story of the Chinese Puzzle with Over 2000 Puzzles to Solve] by Jerry Slocum - [Tangrams ABC Kit] by Joost Elffers To solve a tangram puzzle, you need to follow these steps:

  • Look at the outline or silhouette of the shape that you need to form.

  • Try to identify which pieces you need to use and how they fit together.

  • Arrange the pieces on a flat surface until they match the shape exactly.

  • If you get stuck, you can use some hints or clues that might be given with the puzzle.

  • If you solve the puzzle correctly, you can check your answer with the solution that might be provided with the puzzle.

How to create your own Tangram designs

If you want to create your own tangram designs, you can either draw them by hand or use a computer program. Here are some tips on how to create your own tangram designs:

  • Start with a simple shape that you want to make, such as an animal, a letter, or a symbol.

  • Try to break down the shape into smaller parts that can be formed with the tangram pieces.

  • Use trial and error to find the best way to arrange the pieces to form the shape.

  • Make sure that the pieces do not overlap or leave any gaps.

  • Draw the outline or silhouette of the shape that you have formed with the pieces.

  • You can also add some details or colors to make your design more attractive and unique.

  • You can also use a computer program, such as [Tangram Designer] or [Tangram Maker], to create and print your own tangram designs.


Tangram is a fun and educational puzzle game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a simpl


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