As we start to get ready for the cold weather, I like to think about indoor activities that will encourage math thinking but also keep my kids excited and entertained. When I’m saying no to video games, I need to have something that will be a substitute they will actually want to play! I used tangrams all the time in the classroom in all different grade levels, so I love that I can pull them out and all my kids (age 10, 8, and 5) can find something fun and educational to do with them.
A tangram is a Chinese geometric puzzle made of a square divided into seven pieces, including one parallelogram, one square, and five triangles.
You can buy them in different sets or print them online and cut out (better if printed on card stock). Here are a few sites where you can find tangrams to print or purchase:
Tangrams are usually used to create a picture or design. Younger children can move the pieces around and try to make pictures of different animals or letters, while older children can be challenged to arrange the pieces onto specific design templates. You can buy tangram books that have templates in them or can print them from the internet, with varying levels of difficulty!
Two fun picture books I used to read to my students to spark their creativity and see how much they can do with tangrams are Grandfathers Tang’s Story and Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes.
Here are some ideas to add number sense to the tangram play:
- Write number facts that are challenging for your kids on the front of each tangram and the answer on the back. They can practice them while creating their picture.
- Assign different numerical values to each tangram and have kids find the total once they have created the design. Can use:
- Whole Numbers
- Positive/Negative Numbers
- Use measurements on each design to have students find the area and perimeter of their picture.
Encourage your children to make their own tangram designs and share their outlines with you, their siblings, friends, and teacher!