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Look What Came from ChinaWe are enjoying learning more about everyday objects and activities that originated in China. We learned more about science of tea, made paper, and added multi-digit numbers with an abacus. Now we have focused on another math tool that is readily available in our house – tangrams. In fact, a magnet tangram perpetually resides on our fridge, and daughter plays with it from time to time.
Tangrams for Elementary SchoolIn my previous approaches to tangrams, I was taking a very optimistic point of view that my daughter would be able to figure out at least some of the challenges. Well, in reality she can’t solve tangrams from outlines yet and, to be honest, I am not good with them either. So now we are using a more playful scaffolding method when trying to solve tangram puzzles. There are many places to find tangram puzzles – in this particular exercise we used tangrams at Activity Village.
- We look at a tangram puzzle for a minute trying to identify at least some of the shapes that are obvious. Then Smarty (and I) try to solve it for a couple of minutes.
- We look at a “decomposed” tangram for a minute – this also helps to train memory.
- Smarty is trying to build a shape again. If she is stuck, I am giving her “hints” one shape at a time. She “wins” if she can place at least 3 tangram shapes on her own.
Books for Kids About Tangrams
The Warlord’s Puzzle by Virginia Pilegard is a great fictional story about the origin of tangrams and the first book in The Warlord’s series. Virginia Pilegard and Nicolas Debon collaborated on several other books bringing us stories about an abacus, a compass, etc. In this book several learned men are trying to reconstruct an expensive square tile accidentally broken into pieces, but only a poor son of peasant is able to accomplish this feat. It’s a great introduction to the most famous tangram problem – a tangram square.
Three Pigs, One Wolf, and Seven Magic Shapes by Grace Maccarone illustrated by David Neuhaus is a fun retelling of Three Pigs classic story. It’s a Scholastic Reader level 3, so the text is fairly easy for independent readers. I really enjoyed the ending of this clever story, and it has about a dozen different tangrams (already decomposed into pieces) for kids to try out.
Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert iluustrated by Robert Andrew Parker is the most complex and the longest story of three. Tangrams are beautifully woven into watercolor illustrations. This book might be a bit intense for younger children, since it has a conflict between friends and an injury to one of them. Smarty and I read it together when she was 4, and she was frightened by it. However, she seems to have forgotten the story, since she was delighted to read it now at 6, both with me and on her own.
Great Tangram Resources for Kids
- Easter Story Activity Book – brilliantly executed by teenagers of Almost Unschoolers
- Tangrams for Preschool and Kindergarten from The Preschool Toolbox
- DIY Magnetic Tangrams from School Time Snippets
- Easy Tangram Puzzles (with free printables) from Education.com
- Tangram challenges and variations for different levels from Laughing and Learning Through Life.