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by Early Math Counts

A Tangram is a Chinese puzzle that has 7 shapes.  They are always the same, in every set.  There are:

• Two large right triangles

• One medium-sized right triangle

• Two small right triangles

• One small square

• One parallelogram

According to Gwen Dewar, PhD. in Parenting Science (2009)

Arranged correctly, the shapes can be fitted together as a large square, rectangle, or triangle. They can also be arranged in a variety of complex shapes, including fanciful ones (like the rabbit illustrated here).

There are many ways to play with tangrams. The simplest way is to let kids create their own complex shapes. But traditionally, tangrams are treated as puzzles. The player is shown a target shape (in outline, or silhouette only) and then asked to recreate that shape using the seven pieces.

As noted below, tangrams can also be used to teach kids to measure area without formulas—an approach that should help kids develop an intuitive sense of geometry.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics also says of that while children play with Tangrams, they;

• develop positive feelings about geometry

• classify shapes

• develop an intuitive feeling for shapes and geometric    relationships

• develop spatial rotation skills

• develop precise vocabulary for manipulating shapes (e.g., “flip,” “rotate”)

• learn the meaning of “congruent”


Try and get a set of these wonderful manipulatives for your center or classroom.  This website has sets of them for larger groups of children.

3 Replies to “Tangrams”

  1. The children in my class love Tangrams. I am amazed at how they are able to create new shapes with them. They will sit for long periods working with them. Tangrams is a work they never tire of. They are able to identify the shapes and and can feel the shapes in a bag to match when we play a game.

    1. How old are the children? I didn\’t introduce Tangrams to my children until they were around 5, especially for shape building. There are really nice sets out there that come with pictures of shapes that can be made with the Tangrams. They can be very difficult so prepare for some frustration.

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