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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!


Free Printable Tangrams

  • IDEAS -- Tangram PDFs
    Several choices of tangrams -- black outlines, colored shapes, small or large, and even some pages of designs to create.
  • Tangram Patterns in B&W
    These small and large tangram patterns are simple black outlines in PDF. These are great for templates for making your own tangrams out of craft foam or cardboard.
  • Super Duper Big B&W Tangram Pattern
    The biggest tangram pattern I can find online!
  • Tangram PDF from PBS Kids
    This tangram page is different in that the pieces are patterned (black and white) and are scattered on the page instead of in the typical square formation.

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.)

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.

Make Your Own Tangrams

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.

Printable Puzzles to Solve - with Tangram Tiles

  • Rabbit Tangrams
    Three rabbit puzzles to solve. This PDF includes a basic tangram template as well as the solutions to the puzzles. Great for springtime tangram play!
  • The Tangram Zoo
    Goats, birds, a polar bear, a camel, and even a huge rocket!
  • Cleave Books Tangram Booklet
    This is a nice all in one PDF with background information, templates, and puzzles to solve. Just print the pages you need.
  • The Tangram Print and Play
    This is a great starter PDF with a green tangram to cut out, a page of puzzles, and a page of solutions.

Three Pigs, One Wolf and Seven Magic Shapes

Tangram Activities - beyond just making pictures

  • Tangram Notebooking Pages
    These free printable notebooking pages from The Notebooking Fairy are perfect for writing about the math you learn during tangram play.
  • Write Tangram Inspired Stories
    This site offers dozens of examples of student work. Show a few of these to your children, and they are sure to run off, inspired to write their own tangram stories. The illustrations for the story come from images made from the tangrams. Simply tra
  • Tangram Worksheet
    This is a good introductory activity to the tangram -- a list of seven questions to answer about the tans.
  • Area of Tangram Pieces
    Solve the area of all the tangram pieces with this middle level math activity.
  • Tips for Manipulatives -- Tangrams
    This one page PDF has 15 questions that you could assign your students to answer as they work with tangrams. The skills addressed go from basic to advanced math.
  • Tangrams - A Way to Visualize Fractions, Geometry, and Algebra
    Mr. L shares a 4 page PDF with tangram activities including fractions, decimals, percents, geometry, algebra, and language!
  • Primer of Industry
    This book in the public domain has a section on Tangrams, beginning in page 26. For internet users in USA, this book is available for full preview and download.

Tangoes Game

Tangram Patterns to Solve

Tangram Living Book


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



kaseyrivenburgh on July 19, 2013:

Worth visiting this lens.

Michelllle on March 03, 2013:

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

MayaIxchel on October 02, 2012:

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

WritingForChange on May 17, 2012:

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

Pastor Cher from United States on May 01, 2012:

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.

Deadicated LM on April 13, 2012:

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

intermarks on March 19, 2012:

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

anonymous on March 11, 2012:

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

fullofshoes on February 14, 2012:

I love this stuff. Great lens. Bookmarked!

jimmyworldstar on February 04, 2012:

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

Tanami on January 08, 2012:

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

baby-strollers on December 12, 2011:

Tangrams are cool! Always good to discover something new.

broccolimom on December 01, 2011:

Thanks for the great ideas!

JoyfulReviewer on December 01, 2011:

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

Trender1 on November 29, 2011:

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

anonymous on November 17, 2011:

Great resource! Thank you for the links!

heehaw lm on October 09, 2011:

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.

dogface lm on October 09, 2011:

Interesting. I like many kinds of puzzles.

Melody Lassalle from California on October 08, 2011:

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

ironmonkey on October 08, 2011:

Great lens

privresearch on October 08, 2011:

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

Marika from Cyprus on October 07, 2011:

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.

aqenter on October 06, 2011:

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

Charmgal on October 05, 2011:

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

JodiFromFlorida on October 05, 2011:

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

anonymous on October 05, 2011:

This is cool =)

dilipsvarma on October 04, 2011:

interesting lens!

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on October 04, 2011:

Interesting! This would be a great teaching tool.

anonymous on October 04, 2011:

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

LearnQuickBooksOnline on October 04, 2011:

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

modernchakra on October 03, 2011:

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

anonymous on October 03, 2011:

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.

blanckj on August 14, 2011:

Awesome resources! Great lens here. Blessed!

Kirsti A. Dyer from Northern California on August 14, 2011:

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

Loretta from United States on August 13, 2011:

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

Teddi14 LM on June 12, 2011:

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

anonymous on May 23, 2011:

What a wonderful way to reinforce geometry!

Philippians468 on April 14, 2011:

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

anonymous on April 07, 2011:

Awesome site for resources!!!!!

Ayngel Overson from Crestone, Co on April 01, 2011:

Fun fun!!!!

JoshK47 on March 26, 2011:

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

anonymous on March 17, 2011:

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

anonymous on February 14, 2011:

Thanks for your great lens,TASKey.com

Jimmie Quick (author) from Memphis, TN, USA on February 02, 2011:

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

anonymous on February 01, 2011:

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...)

anonymous on February 01, 2011:

Thanks for your great work!

anonymous on January 20, 2011:


Fox Music on January 03, 2011:

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

Liz Mackay from United Kingdom on December 29, 2010:

Great fun. blessed by a squid angel.

WorldVisionary on December 25, 2010:

Very cool lens! My daughters will love this!

lilgirllapbooker on December 22, 2010:

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!

GrinningFool on December 09, 2010:

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

anonymous on December 05, 2010:

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

MargoPArrowsmith on December 01, 2010:

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

Jeremy from Tokyo, Japan on November 30, 2010:

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.

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on November 18, 2010:

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.

manndtp on November 13, 2010:

Very Interesting lens. Going to make my own tangram

thesuccess2 on November 13, 2010:

Visual Treat: Angel blessings

nimai_pandit on October 29, 2010:

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

JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on October 11, 2010:

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

anonymous on October 07, 2010:

Great lens!

anonymous on September 30, 2010:

Interesting lens-love it!

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on September 16, 2010:

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.

SpellOutloud on September 16, 2010:

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!

KimGiancaterino on September 13, 2010:

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

anonymous on September 06, 2010:

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!

eclecticeducati1 on September 01, 2010:

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 on July 16, 2010:

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

Jeanette from Australia on July 07, 2010:

Oooh. Lots of fun AND educational! Great lens.

ScientificHomes on May 19, 2010:

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

Sandrastevens LM on January 28, 2010:

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

Heidi Reina from USA on January 22, 2010:

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

Astrieanna on October 25, 2009:

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. ^^::

SpellOutloud on September 11, 2009:

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

anonymous on September 11, 2009:

Thank u 4 teaching me how 2 play TANGRAM!

anonymous on August 10, 2009:

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

AlisonMeacham on June 14, 2009:

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 on May 30, 2009:

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

anonymous on May 24, 2009:

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

JanieceTobey on May 04, 2009:

We love tangrams too! 5 stars!

hlkljgk from Western Mass on May 04, 2009:

i love tangrams. cool stop motion video.

anonymous on April 16, 2009:

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

SherryHolderHunt on April 06, 2009:

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

nightbear lm on March 06, 2009:

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

Evelyn Saenz from Royalton on March 03, 2009:

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.

eclecticeducati1 on March 02, 2009:

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.

tandemonimom lm on March 01, 2009:

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

anonymous on March 01, 2009:

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!