Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Learning about Shapes with Tangrams and the Net

Andrea Jacobsen


This lesson uses tangrams, children's literature, and Websites to teach primary students about shapes.


The student uses appropriate geometric vocabulary to describe properties of two-dimensional figures.

The student uses manipulatives to solve problems requiring spatial visualization.

The student knows symmetry, congruency, and reflections in geometric figures using concrete materials (for example, pattern blocks, geoboards, mirrors).


-Class set of plastic tangram tiles
-Overhead projector
-Overhead tangram set
-Computer lab
-Printer and paper
-Construction paper
-Fast-drying glue sticks
-Journals or writing paper
-Book: Tompert, Ann. [Grandfather Tang's Story]. New York: Crown Publishers, 1990.
-Internet Tangrams, one per student (See Associated File)
-Tangram Shapes, one per student (See Associated File)
-Tangram Lesson Grading Checklist (See Associated File)


1. Set up the computers that the students will use with all of the needed Websites (See Weblinks) bookmarked either in the Favorites file or as separate desktop icons.
2. Have construction paper, scissors, and fast-drying glue sticks available in the computer lab for students to make their own tangram pieces. (Set aside a separate area for this in the lab away from the computers.)
3. If breaking the lesson up over two days, complete sections 1 and 2 (activating and gaining knowledge) on Day 1 along with the PBS Kids Sagwa Website (See Weblinks) addressed in the first part of section 3 (using knowledge). On Day 2, review what was learned and then complete the Strong Museum Website (See Weblinks) addressed in the last part of section 3, and section 4 (personalizing knowledge).
4. Download and copy the Internet Tangrams and Tangram Shapes sheets for each student. (See Associated File)
5. Download the Tangram Lesson Grading Checklist for teacher reference. (See Associated File)


The students should have prior knowledge of basic two-dimensional shapes from previous grades. Teachers should be familiar with tangrams and review the Websites used for this lesson prior to teaching this lesson. (See Weblinks)

1. Have the class think back to preschool and kindergarten when they learned how to put puzzles together to make a picture.

2. Tell them that today they will be learning how to use an ancient Chinese puzzle that is thousands of years old. This puzzle is called a tangram because a Chinese scholar named Tan discovered it.

3. Read the history of the tangram puzzle found at the Enchanted Mind Website. (See the Tangrams link in Weblinks)

During this section, be sure to use the appropriate geometric vocabulary from the following list: geometry, circle, triangle, square, rectangle, parallelogram, side, similar, congruent, shapes, 2-dimensional, spatial skills, tangrams. (Option: Create a word bank/list from the keywords.)

4. Show the class a set of tangram tiles on an overhead projector. Have them count and identify the 7 pieces: 5 similar triangles, 1 square, and 1 parallelogram.

5. Have the students answer questions about the tangram tiles. Are all the triangles the same? How are they different? How are they similar?

6. Using the overhead and some overhead transparent tangrams, introduce the concepts of congruent and similar by showing the students examples of each with the appropriate tangram triangles. What is the difference between the square and the parallelogram?

7. Show the students how all of the tiles can be put together to make a larger square.

8. Explain that they will be exploring the Internet to find out what other kinds of shapes the tangram puzzle can make.

9. Bring the class to the computer lab. Be sure that the Websites are already set up either in the Favorites file or as desktop icons so that the students are able to find them easily.

10. Pass out the Internet Tangrams sheets (See Associated File), read the directions aloud, and have the students go to the PBS Kids Sagwa Website. (See Weblinks) Here they will be able to practice using tangrams interactively with the characters from the PBS cartoon about Sagwa, the kitten. The students should fill out their sheets as they explore the Website. Once they have completed the activities, have the students go on to the Strong Museum Website (See Weblinks) to create their own puzzle pieces. They can then use their own tangram pieces to solve the puzzles on the Website.

11. Introduce the book [Grandfather Tang's Story] by Ann Tompert. Read the story to the class and explain to the students that they will now create their own stories based on a tangram. They may use one of the character shapes from the Sagwa tangram game or they may make up their own tangrams to represent the main character. Have the students glue their construction paper tangram pieces onto another sheet of paper in the shape of whatever animal or character that they would like to write about.

12. Pass out the journals or writing paper and have the students write a short story about their tangram character. Staple the completed stories to the bottom of the construction paper in order to display the projects.

13. Pass out the Tangram Shapes sheet (See Associated File) for students to complete while they are waiting for others to finish their stories. This sheet may be completed either during free time or as homework to be turned in if time runs out.


1. Collect the Internet Tangrams sheets to make sure that the students visited the Websites.

2. Collect the students' tangrams and stories and assess according to the Tangram Lesson Grading Checklist. (See Associated File)

3. Collect the Tangram Shapes sheets to assess knowledge of the vocabulary and shape concepts used in the lesson. (See Tangram Lesson Grading Checklist in Associated File)

4. Note: This lesson addresses ISTE Standards: I, II, III, IV, VI. For more information on these national standards, please see the ISTE Standards Weblink. Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly.


1. Have students trace the outlines/perimeter of their favorite tangram puzzles onto white paper. Give parents tangram pieces on open house night and have them try to solve their child's puzzle.
2. Create a tangram center in the classroom for students to visit either during center time or in their free time. In the center have several sets of tangrams available as well as laminated puzzles for the students to solve (printable tangram puzzles are available at the Strong Museum site. (See Weblinks) Use the puzzles from the book [Tangram Patterns] by Thomas Foster (Palo Alto, CA: Creative Publications, 1977).
3. Read [I Like Shapes] by Shane Armstrong and Celina Mosbauer (New York: Scholastic, 1996) to reinforce shapes.
4. Read [The Silly Story of Goldie Locks and the Three Squares] by Grace Maccarone, Anne Kennedy, and Marilyn Burns (New York: Scholastic, 1996) and then try some of the geometry activities suggested at the end of the book.
5. Read/listen to the story/book, [The Napping House] by Audrey Wood (New York: Scholastic, 1996) and then allow students to cut out the pieces and make their own house with the tangram shapes.
6. Allow the students to use the software, [Geometry Blaster] by Davidson Software, to use tangrams via the mouse on the computer. There are also many other games and activities all related to geometry.

Web Links

You must have a Java enabled browser to use the puzzle with this website. Either Netscape 2.0 or Internet Explorer 3.0 and above.

Web supplement for Learning about Shapes WithTangrams and the Net
PBS Kids Sagwa website

Web supplement for Learning about Shapes WithTangrams and the Net
Strong Museum website

Web supplement for Learning about Shapes WithTangrams and the Net
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standards

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