Seven Magical Tans

Tangrams are geometry made into 3D, creative fun! Print off some paper tangrams or make your own from craft foam. How about tangram toast for breakfast? Then put on your visual-spatial thinking cap as you discover how to arrange the tiles to make animals, people, or objects.

Put away the math workbook and play with tangrams for your math lesson tomorrow. Demonstrate that you understand math vocabulary by manipulating the seven tans.

Tangrams are rather mysterious as no one know exactly how they came to be. We do know that tangrams originated in China. So playing with tangrams can be a nice hands-on activity for a unit study about China.

What Good are Tangrams?

Why play with tangrams? Besides being an entertaining diversion for a few minutes, what are the educational benefits of these seven shapes?

Tangrams are physical objects that children can use to experiment with geometric concepts. Children are concrete learners until around age 12. Using manipulatives such as tangrams is the best way to teach math to children from preschool to age 11. Flipping pieces and moving them around gives learners real experience with the properties of the shapes. Merely looking at a shape drawn in a textbook is not nearly as effective.

Manipulating tangrams stimulates the visual-spatial powers of the mind. Children who are already very skilled in visual-spatial tasks may find great success with tangram activities.

Lots of mathematical concepts are explored through the play with tangrams: congruency, symmetry, area, perimeter, and geometric shapes. Look at this list of 12 advanced mathematical terms that can be taught through the tangrams. (See page205 of the PDF.) Tangrams are not just for small children!

Rules of Tangram Play

Use all seven pieces

Lay them flat without overlapping

Each piece must touch another

But feel free to break the rules in your math explorations!

The Warlord's Puzzle - a fable of the origin of the tangram

This book is recommended by LivingMath.net as a living book for math study. Although not based on historical fact, The Warlord's Puzzle delves into the math concepts of the tans in an engaging story.

Pelican Publications shares a free PDF educational guide for this book that includes comprehension questions and activities. (Look a the bottom right of the page for the link.)

Warlord's Puzzle, The (Warlord's Series)
Warlord's Puzzle, The (Warlord's Series)

In China, a beautiful ceramic tile lies shattered on the ground, and the artist who dropped it is sentenced to the land's worst punishment. The fierce warlord will execute the artist unless some wise person can put the seven pieces back together. That person will then be invited to live in the castle. Both locals and strangers from far away wait their turns for a chance to solve the warlord's puzzle.

After learning why these people are waiting to enter the castle, a peasant boy convinces his poor but wise father to join the line. This little boy starts them off on the first step to solving the puzzle-entering the contest.

Virginia Walton Pilegard wrote The Warlord's Puzzle as part of a teaching unit that uses informal geometry to strengthen students' visual learning abilities. Mrs. Pilegard studied elementary mathematics and completed both a B.A. and M.A. in Education. She then went on to teach elementary grades and in juvenile correction schools.

--- notes from the Publisher


Tangrams are Interdisciplinary

Math, art, and language arts get mixed up when you play with tangrams!

Here are photos from an hour of tangram exploration. We used tangram patterns, printed small, to make ATCs (Artist Trading Cards). Sprite even created a series of cards to tell a story about a knight who rides a horse to save the princess from a dragon.

Images of Tangram Activities

Click thumbnail to view full-size
tangram snail ATCtangram rabbitstangram princesstagram birdstangram ATCs
tangram snail ATC
tangram snail ATC
tangram rabbits
tangram rabbits
tangram princess
tangram princess
tagram birds
tagram birds
tangram ATCs
tangram ATCs

Making Tangrams Tutorial

If you prefer a visual demonstration, try this video. With just paper and scissors you can use folding to make a nice tangram set.

Print out some of these puzzle pages and let your children try to solve them by making the same shapes using the seven tans of the tangram.

Later, let them create their own animals and people, trace them onto paper, and test each other.

Three Pigs, One Wolf and Seven Magic Shapes

Three Pigs, One Wolf, Seven Magic Shapes (level 3) (Scholastic Reader, Math)
Three Pigs, One Wolf, Seven Magic Shapes (level 3) (Scholastic Reader, Math)

An early reader that incorporates the use of tangrams to tell the tale. Visit Mathwire for some printables to go along with this book. And see Almost Unschoolers for some photographs of a lesson using this book.


Tangoes Game

Classic Tangoes
Classic Tangoes

A great activity for workboxes or enrichment -- cards show a shape to create with the tangrams included in the set.


Tangram Patterns to Solve

Sam Loyd's Book of Tangrams (Dover Recreational Math)
Sam Loyd's Book of Tangrams (Dover Recreational Math)

This book is filled with hundreds of tangram patterns to solve with your own tangram pieces (not included).


Tangram Living Book

Grandfather Tang's Story (Dragonfly Books)
Grandfather Tang's Story (Dragonfly Books)

In this picture book, the setting is China, where tangrams were invented.


This fun tangram looking font comes from Dave's Free Fonts; he calls it Litebrite 1975.

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Guestbook 88 comments

anonymous 7 years ago

I need to get these back out and put them to use for my 8 and 4 year old! Thanks for the reminder and great info!



tandemonimom lm profile image

tandemonimom lm 7 years ago

What a very helpful page! LOVE the sidewalk block tangram vid! 5 big stars!

eclecticeducati1 profile image

eclecticeducati1 7 years ago

This is a great lens! I'll have to try some of this out with Little One. 5*

Btw... You got to my new lens (Lapbooking Resources) pretty quickly. I added a new resource under lapbook sites right after you were there, your lens! I know I added it to the top, but I realized it should be down in the body of the page also. I just want you know that I am NOT trying to compete with your lens (as if mine even comes close to yours anyway!!!), but I was getting tired of losing the sites and looking them back up and I figured I would share it since it's different from yours. I really hope you are ok with that.

evelynsaenz1 profile image

evelynsaenz1 7 years ago from Royalton

My children love working with Tangrams and that experience has helped them visualize math all the way up through college level geometry.

Lensrolled to Hands-On Math and Natural Math Manipulatives.

nightbear lm profile image

nightbear lm 7 years ago

I love math, I love puzzles, what a great combo. really enjoyed it.

SherryHolderHunt profile image

SherryHolderHunt 7 years ago

I think this lens will be very valuable to growing kids, I'm rolling it to my EZ Doodle lens. 5*s

anonymous 7 years ago

This is a great lens :) Very interesting and helpful.

hlkljgk profile image

hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

i love tangrams. cool stop motion video.

JanieceTobey profile image

JanieceTobey 7 years ago

We love tangrams too! 5 stars!

anonymous 7 years ago

interesting n cool...i give it 5 *s!

anonymous 7 years ago

its just amazing.who will be able to imagine a world without TANGRAMS

AlisonMeacham profile image

AlisonMeacham 7 years ago

We use tangrams a lot. My children are so much better at them than me. I guess that as I started very late to this it is so much more difficult for me to see how to do them!

anonymous 7 years ago

We recently had a submission of an activity called "Easy Tangrams" that references this site. This is a great place for more information on Tangrams. Thank you! http://www.MyActivityMaker.com

anonymous 7 years ago

Thank u 4 teaching me how 2 play TANGRAM!

SpellOutloud profile image

SpellOutloud 7 years ago

Wonderful lens! I haven't used Tangrams since college. I need to go find some for my kids.

Astrieanna profile image

Astrieanna 7 years ago

Great lens-- you seem to have covered all the important parts of the topic. =)

I've played with tangrams before, but I never realized that there was math involved. ^^::

EdTecher profile image

EdTecher 6 years ago from USA

Another wonderful lens of yours. Many of my students love tangrams.

Sandrastevens LM profile image

Sandrastevens LM 6 years ago

Amazing lens! I've played with them before.. but lol.. never understood the mathematical part of it.

ScientificHomes profile image

ScientificHomes 6 years ago

We love tangrams! You've got a lot of great resources available here; thanks very much!

GonnaFly profile image

GonnaFly 6 years ago from Australia

Oooh. Lots of fun AND educational! Great lens.

anonymous 6 years ago

good stuff I wish the lesson would show what grade level these lessons are for.

eclecticeducati1 profile image

eclecticeducati1 6 years ago

I just got some Tangrams for my little guys math this year, so I will need to check out some of these activities! I had already rated the lens before but now that I am a Squid Angel again, I wanted to come by and bless it.

anonymous 6 years ago

Thank you so much for this site. It has all really education and interesting resources. The kids are going to love the Tangram lesson tomorrow!

KimGiancaterino profile image

KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

You have such a gift for combining education with fun! I love the black cat.

SpellOutloud profile image

SpellOutloud 6 years ago

I knew I could find what I needed in your lens list. We will be studying China next week (got the package from your friend and it is great! Will be blogging about it again soon). I wanted to print out some tangram stuff but didn't want to do a web search. Glad to see you already had a lens made!

RhondaAlbom profile image

RhondaAlbom 6 years ago from New Zealand

I love tangrams. They grow up with the kids. From the beginning when they learn colors and shapes, to some of the more complex designs that I sometimes struggle to make. They are awesome.

anonymous 6 years ago

Interesting lens-love it!

anonymous 6 years ago

Great lens!

JoyfulPamela2 profile image

JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

Tangrams are so fun! My kids love using out set! :)

nimai_pandit 6 years ago

Your lens is high quality, informative, practical, and with bold fonts, borders, photos and videos. Everything a great lens needs!

thesuccess2 profile image

thesuccess2 6 years ago

Visual Treat: Angel blessings

manndtp 6 years ago

Very Interesting lens. Going to make my own tangram

sheilamarie78 profile image

sheilamarie78 6 years ago

I love tangrams. Using concrete objects in learning math helps a child to make the learning his or her own. It's not just some abstract concept.

MisterJeremy profile image

MisterJeremy 6 years ago from Tokyo, Japan

I've got a good book of tangram activities that I want to work into my teaching. This lens gave me the motivation actually to do it. Blessed.

MargoPArrowsmith profile image

MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

I have lensrolled this to "Keeping Your Brain Fit and Beautiful" because this kind of thing does just that!

anonymous 6 years ago

One of my girls is unwell today so I am looking for something for her to do - tangr ams look like they will fit the bill nicely

GrinningFool 6 years ago

Thank you for this. My daughter loves, loves, loves these!!

lilgirllapbooker 6 years ago

Brill! I used to love Tangrams when I was a kid! Another way of making them was to get big packets of thick foam, and glue all the sheets on top of each other. Then you get big outdoor tangram pieces for the summer!

WorldVisionary 6 years ago

Very cool lens! My daughters will love this!

LizMac60 profile image

LizMac60 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Great fun. blessed by a squid angel.

Fox Music profile image

Fox Music 6 years ago

Great info thanks - did not realize the was a name for it

anonymous 6 years ago


anonymous 5 years ago

Thanks for your great work!

anonymous 5 years ago

Hi Jimmie, your work is very great... Thanks!

I'll translate this post in my blog as soon as possible...

(the links about 13 advanced mathematical terms and tangram directions don't work...)

jimmielanley profile image

jimmielanley 5 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA Author

@anonymous: Palmy, Thanks so much for telling me about the broken link. I've found it and updated it.

anonymous 5 years ago

Thanks for your great lens,TASKey.com

anonymous 5 years ago

amazing! thanks for putting this together - super helpful and fun!

JoshK47 5 years ago

I've always found these really neat, but never knew what they were called! Thanks!

ayngel boshemia profile image

ayngel boshemia 5 years ago from Crestone, Co

Fun fun!!!!

anonymous 5 years ago

Awesome site for resources!!!!!

Philippians468 profile image

Philippians468 5 years ago

this is an ideal game for all ages! thank you for sharing this tan-talizing lens! cheers

anonymous 5 years ago

What a wonderful way to reinforce geometry!

Teddi14 LM profile image

Teddi14 LM 5 years ago

I use tangrams in my classroom. The kids love them!

retta719 profile image

retta719 5 years ago from United States

The SquidAngel School Bus is driving through your neighborhood leaving ~*~*~*~*~angel dus~*~*~*~*~ sprinkles along the way!

HealthfulMD profile image

HealthfulMD 5 years ago from Northern California

I don't remember these in school. Would have made learning geometry a lot more fun.

blanckj 5 years ago

Awesome resources! Great lens here. Blessed!

anonymous 5 years ago

sweet designs indeed. Glad I browsed upon your lens tonight! If you like to browse lens as I do, mine has a great educational topic with poll questions for my readers to enjoy.

modernchakra profile image

modernchakra 5 years ago

I know quite a few music therapists who would love to use tangram in their music therapy experiences.

LearnQuickBooksOnline 5 years ago

Love your lens! This reminds me of my Mother making quilt blocks.

anonymous 5 years ago

Great lens. I remember these from my earlier school days. I even own a set today. Lots of fun to figure out.

Scarlettohairy profile image

Scarlettohairy 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

Interesting! This would be a great teaching tool.

dilipsvarma 5 years ago

interesting lens!

anonymous 5 years ago

This is cool =)

JodiFromFlorida profile image

JodiFromFlorida 5 years ago

These would keep kids busy during summer vacation when they're bored. Great lens!

Charmgal profile image

Charmgal 5 years ago

I think I am going to use this as a group activity at work! Very cool!

aqenter profile image

aqenter 5 years ago

I haven't heard this word "tanagram" since elementary school. It's all coming back ;)

kislanyk profile image

kislanyk 5 years ago from Cyprus

It's the first time I"m hearing the word tangram and I checked out the lens because it was on the homepage. It's an interesting game, I'll have to give it a try. You've got some great info on it.

privresearch profile image

privresearch 5 years ago

I've seen these puzzles before but i never knew they were called tangram. Nice lens!

ironmonkey 5 years ago

Great lens

MelRootsNWrites profile image

MelRootsNWrites 5 years ago from California

These seem so familiar! They must have used them in school in the 70s.

dogface lm profile image

dogface lm 5 years ago

Interesting. I like many kinds of puzzles.

heehaw lm profile image

heehaw lm 5 years ago

too bad, when i was small i did not know how to design shapes using tangrams. today , i only notice that we able to combine its shapes with arts too.

anonymous 5 years ago

Great resource! Thank you for the links!

Trender1 profile image

Trender1 5 years ago

Simple yet promises great potential and mental stimulation. Love it!

JoyfulReviewer profile image

JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

A fun way to start seeing shapes everywhere ... nicely done! Congratulations on having one of the top 35 homeschooling lenses.

broccolimom 5 years ago

Thanks for the great ideas!

baby-strollers 5 years ago

Tangrams are cool! Always good to discover something new.

Tanami 5 years ago

a great lens good to give the kids something outside of the computer.

jimmyworldstar 4 years ago

These are actually quite clever. I can tell the different types of triangles in the first picture. Anymore useful resources like this?

fullofshoes profile image

fullofshoes 4 years ago

I love this stuff. Great lens. Bookmarked!

anonymous 4 years ago

Great Lens.Tahnks for this information.My kids love this stuff

intermarks profile image

intermarks 4 years ago

Very interesting lens. My kids have a set of Tangrams and you really need to be creative to make something out of it.

Deadicated LM profile image

Deadicated LM 4 years ago

I never heard of Tangrams; thanks for the info, I guess you're living life right if you learn something new everyday.

PastorCher profile image

PastorCher 4 years ago from United States

I used these in my classroom; the kids really enjoyed them. They are fun and are challenging. In fact, I think I liked doing them more than they did.

WritingForChange profile image

WritingForChange 4 years ago

Another great resource. Inspired me to get out our homemade tangrams and play. Erm... I mean do a geometry lesson :)

MayaIxchel profile image

MayaIxchel 4 years ago

Thanks for the great lens and great links! Fantastic activities to add to my list. Greetings from 'the land of eternal spring'!

Michelllle profile image

Michelllle 3 years ago

Going to show my kids the math art video clip right now. Really enjoying your lenses.

kaseyrivenburgh profile image

kaseyrivenburgh 3 years ago

Worth visiting this lens.

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