Welcome to Paula's Preschool and Kindergarten! My class blog is the place I share information about some of the fun learning activities we are doing at school. I hope to provide parents with insight into what we are doing, and why, and to share ideas with other early childhood educators. Please don't use the photos or text of this blog without permission, but please do use any ideas you find useful. Thank you for stopping by!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

These Awesome Tangrams Will Make Your Students LOVE math!

You're probably familiar with tangrams, the Chinese puzzle made with 7 shapes that form a square - and any number of other things.  They're fun for all ages, simple enough for a child to use, and complex enough to challenge adults: truly a puzzle for children ages 3 - 103.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
When I first introduce anything to my students, I like to allow them plenty of time to explore and discover on their own.  This is something I was urged to do way back in teacher training, and 25 years teaching has reinforced.  It's amazing what students will come up with when you let them explore and play!
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!

Next I display a big tangram shape.  I ask students to tell me what they notice.  This is when I usually hear the names of the shapes, some words about size, and there's almost always someone who refers to the "diamond" shape, which is just the square turned onto a corner.  Being a tiny bit silly (who me?) I ask the children what my name is - Ms. Paula.  I then strike various silly poses and ask again - and each time my name is still the same.  It's the same with the square - turn it any which way you like, it's still a square!

Another great word and concept that comes up at this time is parallel.  For most of the children I've taught, that's a new word.  We look around the room for things that are parallel: the sides of our desks, the lines in the ceiling tiles, bookshelves, and more.  Although this is a brief mini lesson, only lasting a minute or so, I carry it over into the rest of the week by noticing or asking children to notice parallel lines around the school.  Pretty soon they have that concept firmly in place.

The next thing I like to do is to hide my tangram, and provide each child with their own tangram and ask then to make me a square.  I bet you can picture which child in your class will be a smarty and hold up the small square!
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
I challenge them to make a square, and it doesn't take long for someone to use 2 equal sized triangles to do it.  The tangram set includes 2 small triangles and 2 big triangles, so there's more than 1 way to do it - I love telling my students to keep trying and look for another way, it's just the sort of challenge they're eager to figure out!

It's very rare to have a student use all 7 pieces to make a square, in fact, most adults I've met can't figure it out.  I give the children a few minutes to try, and when I sense they're ready, I begin to give them clues.  I show them how to use the 2 big triangles to make half of the square - it's helpful to define the space where the rest of the pieces will go.

These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
A few minutes later I add the square,
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
then the medium triangle. 
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
Eventually all the children get it.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!

That's my introduction to tangrams - next comes the part I like the best!  I show students pictures that can be made with tangrams, and challenge them to try to make them.  You can find hundreds of tangram puzzle shapes with a quick internet search, or for simplicity, I have a variety of these puzzles available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
It's ideal to have both the puzzle and the answer key available, because many students will be challenged to simply rotate and match the shapes, while others will relish the challenge of figuring it all out.  I put them back to back in a page protector, so students can easily flip and check.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!
Don't have tangrams in your classroom yet, and don't have a budget for them?  No problem!  Download this free print
out, and either cut them ahead of time, or have students cut out their own.  It will save you a lot of confusion if you print them on different colored paper, so students don't mix up their pieces with a neighbor!  5-6 colors is enough - just use what you have available.
These Awesome Tangrams will make your students love math!

I hope you and your students enjoy exploring tangrams together! 

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