What is a tangram?
It is an ancient Chinese moving piece puzzle, consisting of 7 geometric shapes (see squares above). The word "tangram" means Chinese drawing.

Tangrams are challenging, fun, and one of our first explorations in Math.
On this page you will:
  • Learn how we introduce tangrams in our classroom
  • See how we recreate the characters using tangrams
  • Read how we integrate tangrams into Writers' Workshop
  • See some of our lighthouse tangrams
  • Find some terrific tangram resources
We begin with the book Grandfather Tang's Story, a wonderfully engaging story told in tangrams. Take a look inside the book here.

We then work with partners to recreate the characters from the story using tangrams.

Note to teachers and parents, please feel free to copy this image to use with Grandfather Tang.

In Writers' Workshop we pretended we were the fox fairies from the story and wrote about what animal we would change into.

If I were a fox fairy, I'd change into....
a fish because I've always wanted to be one. I would spend the day swimming in a school and at the end of the day get homework from my school, The Fishy School in the Ocean. My homework would be how to catch bait without getting hooked.
by Omer
a cat because if some enemy came I could call a lion or a tiger who are my cat friends to scare them away. I would hunt for mice. I would have some kittens. I would have blue eyes that see well and be white as snow with little black spots.
by Elisa
a leopard because I would be the second fastest animal in the world. I would go visit my cousin the jaguar and we would challenge each other to a race.
by Nicholas
a dolphin because I could do tricks. I would spend the day learning how to fish. I would do flips and talk a lot with my friends.
by Briana
an eagle because I want to see what the world looks like. I would spend the day flying and trying to get something to eat. I would build a nest on a tall tree. I would enjoy seeing the beautiful view.
by Elijah
a dog because I could still live with my family. I would spend the day protecting them. I would ask for my family to pat me and play ball with me. I would love my family and they would love me.
by Katie
a snow leopard because I could live in cold places. I would climb mountains to find food. In winter my fur would be pale gray and blend in with the snow.
by Gino
a monkey because I can climb up a tree. I would climb on branches and hang upside down by my tail. I would eat little bugs and leaves. I would play with my monkey friends in the jungle.
by Julia
a turtle because if you had a baby you could play peek-a-boo with it. I would name by baby Tomas. We would spend the day hiding our heads and saying "Peek-a-boo" and he would really like it.
by Katerina
a California Condor because condors are really strong and good at flying and it's not hard to catch food. I would spend the month flying over North and South America a. Sometimes I'll stop and rest.
by Lucas
a chameleon because I can change colors. I would blend in with the leaves and grass. I would use my long tongue to catch bugs.
by Jade
a fish because I could swim and I think that would be exciting. I could watch the beautiful waves. I would play with Michelle, my fish friend. We would watch the sunset together.
by Gabriela
a monkey because I could swing from branch to branch. I would spend the day eating hundreds of bananas. I would swing on my long tail and play with my other monkey friends.
by Ellen
a snapping turtle because if an enemy comes over I would snap at him or I would hide in my shell. I would eat lots of vegetables from a farm. I would drink lots of water from my pond.
by Kristopher
a gorilla because I would be so strong. I would spend the day swinging from tree to tree and eating bananas. I would have fun playing monkey tag with my friends. At night I would return to my family and sleep.
by Jared
a swan because I could fly and see a good view of where I live in the Public Gardens. I would spend the day swimming in the Public Gardens' pond and people would throw bread and I would eat it. I would swim to the edge of the pond and make a nest to lay my eggs.
by Emily
a wild horse because I could run free. I would spend the day just laying in a field and watching the birds fly in the sky. I would nibble on grass. I would explore and find caves and other interesting things. When I gallop I would feel the cool breeze in my mane.
by Samantha
a swan because I could fly. I would spend the day swimming in Walden Pond. I would eat the bread that people throw into the water. I would watch my other bird friends care for their babies in their nests.
by Sonia
a leopard because I could climb trees. I would squeeze juice out of the fruit in the jungle. I would hunt an antelope in the tall grass. I would take a cool swim.
by Dylan
a cheetah because I could move fast. I would race with gazelles to see who was fastest. I'd prowl through the grassy plains of Africa.
by Ben
We also created lighthouse tangrams found in Elinor DeWire's Lighthouse Activity Book. Here are a few:

by Ellie

by Samantha

by Briana

by Sonia
Tangram Resources
Tangram Game
Make puzzles online! Awesome, a must see!

Learn the history, make your own set, and lots more

Tangram Puzzles
Print and cut out tangrams to create puzzles

Interactive Tangrams

Thinking Fountain - Grandfather Tang's Story
from Science Museum of Minnesota

Tangram Puzzles to Print and Solve

Interactive Chinese Tangram Games
Be sure to scroll down on the page for the puzzles.

Shapes, Halves, and Symmetry
If you are a teacher of TERC Investigations Math, you may download this software which includes puzzles using tangrams.
Note: This is one of our units in our second grade Math program.

Area of Polygons
Lesson using tangrams for grades 4-6
To Window to Our World