A tangram is an ancient Chinese puzzle that consists of seven geometric shapes. Starting with a square, the shape is cut into five triangles, a rhomboid, and a smaller square. All the pieces must be used in creating a picture. In addition, they must touch, but not overlap.
In telling a story with a tangram, the person arranges the pieces or tans, as they are called, in the shape of a person, animal or other object. As new characters and story lines emerge, the pieces are rearranged. It's possible to create thousands of designs and objects by experimenting with the tans.
As shown here, a tangram is made by cutting a square into five triangles, a rhomboid, and a square. Click on the image at the left to get a full sized, 8 by 8 inch pattern. Print the drawing and transfer it to the mat board. Have an adult cut it out using a utility knife.
Experiment with the shapes to see what you can create. Try making animals, people, and objects. After you've played with the shapes, make up a story based on your creations. Now gather an audience, and tell a tale using your tangrams to illustrate the story.
Most frame shops will give you scrap mat board in a variety of colors, or substitute another type of cardboard such as a cereal carton.
See if you can solve the tangram puzzles that are featured at the Strong Museum in Rochester, New York.
To read a story that uses tangrams to represent various animal characters, check out Grandfather Tang's Story from your library.
© 2008 Marilyn J. Brackney (updated 2018)
Volume 18 No. 1
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