Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Tangram Discovery

Monica Stahley


Tangrams are used to develop a child's natural curiosity and the skills to be used in problem solving. These skills will encourage creativity and divergent thinking, while developing an understanding and enjoyment of math concepts and cultural awareness.


The student uses manipulatives to solve problems requiring spatial visualization.


Published by Crown Publishers, Inc.)
ISBN 0-517-57272-9
-A square sheet of paper ( 8- x 8- plain paper)
-A student notebook
-A sharp pencil
-A ruler
-An overhead projector
-Overhead Tangrams (Optional)
-Computer with access to the Internet (Optional)


1. This lesson does not attempt to give you all the things that can be done with the tangram. It does attempt to help you become familiar enough with its potential so that you can find a place for it in your curriculum. Therefore, experiment, innovate, and above all, HAVE FUN!
2. Make sure that you have a copy of the book.
3. The tangram is perhaps the oldest and most enduring of geometric puzzles. It consists of a square divided into seven geometric shapes: two large triangles, a medium size triangle, two small triangles, a square, and a parallelogram. Many different geometric and pictorial arrangements can be made from these pieces.
4. Beginning with young children, use just a few of the pieces and gradually work up to all seven. You will be surprised how quickly the children catch on. Soon they will be challenging you with problems.
5. I suggest that you experiment making your own set of tangrams using various types of materials. Some possibilities are: carpet squares, various floor tiles, felt squares, wood, tagboard, or construction paper.


Day 1

I. Introduce students to tangrams by explaining the Ancient Chinese puzzle, and its history in the Chinese culture. It is sometimes referred to as -seven pieces of cleverness.- (See attached file.)

II. Make a Tangram Puzzle
1. Fold a square sheet of paper (8- x 8-) in half along a diagonal, unfold and cut along the crease.
2. Take one of the halves, fold it in half and cut along the crease.
3. Take the remaining half and lightly crease to find the midpoint of the longest side.
4. Fold so that the vertex of the right angle touches that midpoint and cut along the crease.
5. Take the trapezoid, fold it in half and cut.
6. Fold the acute base angle of one of the trapezoids to the adjacent right base angle and cut on the crease.
7. Fold the right base angle of the other trapezoid to the opposite obtuse angle. Cut on the crease.
8. You should now have 7 Tangram pieces!

III. Administer the pre-test. (See attached file.)
Day 2

I. Begin reading GRANDFATHER TANG'S STORY by Ann Tompert.
As the animals change throughout the story, the students will create the animals using all 7 tangram pieces. (Make a model of the figure on the overhead projector in order for the students to imitate.) The students will manipulate the pieces recognizing how each geometric shape fits together to form the animals. Make sure to give students adequate time between readings to pattern each animal.

Day 3
I. Create Tangram Booklet (See Attached file.)
(Note: This activity can be assigned for homework)

Day 4

1. Have students focus on the arrangement of pieces based on area. Use the small triangle as the basic unit of area. Ask: What are the areas of each of the other 6 pieces?

2. Using the booklet, ask the students to locate the area of each pattern.


Assessment #1- Administer the post-test. Students make the figures as describe on post-test. Teacher walks around the room to verify that the students have completed the figure.
Assessment # 2- Completion of Tangram Booklet.
The student should create the booklet according to the criteria on the worksheet found in the associated file. Students who need help should receive feedback and a chance to correct their work.


1. Allow students to develop their own designs or shapes, with the seven pieces. Trace the creations on tagboard, have the child name it, sign it, and place it in the class tangram box so that other children can try to fit their pieces in the shape.
2. Use the Tangram Brainteaser. You can change the value of each tan to fit your needs.

Web Links

Web supplement for Tangram Discovery
Activities designed for children to do

This site allows the students to create tangrams online. You must have a Java enabled browser to use this puzzle and either Netscape 2.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0 and above
Enchanted Mind Tangrams

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