Original Tangram Chinese Puzzles
Introducing Tangrams, those wonderful Chinese puzzles, along with a few possible solutions which can provide seemingly endless possibilities in creativity and design.
The standard or traditional tangram uses the properties of geometric shapes to determine the tan pieces cut according to the specifications of the traditional 7 "tan" dissection rule. Design your own dissection of each "tan" piece within the traditional 7 "tan" dissection rule.
The original or traditional math-based tangram game consists of one large square divided into seven distinct parts
These seven pieces (7 tans) are then arranged into one recognizable shape at a time positioned in various poses such as running, flying, sitting, etc:
One tangram puzzle can produce many different shapes by rearranging the pieces randomly until a recognizable shape appears. Of course none of the tans may overlap and all must touch each other in some fashion.
Half the fun of tangram puzzles is the discovery of a shape or design for yourself. There are many possible solutions to tangram puzzles. Experiment with the tans, rearrange, flip and flop the pieces to see how many different solutions and figures you can create.
The possible themes and combinations of tangram shapes are as endless as imagination:
- Geometric shapes
- Household items
- Space Ships
A typical tangram solution may be seen here: Tangram running man.
Tangram puzzles remind me of the mosaics of Pompei and stained glass window designs. My parents loved to make mosaic designs to rerurface old tables. I remember them both cautioning me to stand back while they broke various colored glass bottles that they had collected from a fun, scavaging day at the old county dump to use as pieces for the table design. I learned glass is very sharp but the rewards of a beautiful mosaic design might is worth the incidental nick or two.
Whimsical and Creative Tangrams
When I created these whimsical, non-traditional tangrams, I'd print each design, cut the pieces out and place the pieces in individually marked envelopes.
These envelopes traveled with me to work, the doctors, dentists offices, on the commute train. Anytime I found a few idle moments, I'd arrange and rearrange these tans to find as many solutions as possible.
It became a sure-fire conversation stearter. I introduced tangram into hospital and dental waiting rooms, at the office, in break rooms and restaurants. People would often watch as I'd try many different angles. Occasionally someone would suggest a move, or declare that the design looked like an animal or bird, etc.
Make Tangram Felt-Board games
- Find stiff cardboard pieces, about 12" x 12" or larger. Old record album (LP) covers are about the right size and work great for making felt-board play surfaces which children can use to build their own puzzle solutions
- Completely cover the square cardboard with a sheet of felt - black, dark blue or green colors provide good contrast to display the puzzle pieces. Affix the felt firmly with glue or tape
- Trace a collection of the various traditional tangram shapes onto different, brightly colored felt or foam sheets.
Colors to use:
- Light Green
- Light Blue
- If making multiple boards, separate or divide the tans to give each felt board tangram the same number of shapes and sizes in the various colors
Bring along as travel games to keep the children entertained with educational fun. Share at family get-to-gethers, day care centers and school.
Provide pencils and pads of plain paper so children can keep a diary and re-draw and record the different shapes. Solutions not provided here as the purpose of the tangram puzzle is to encourage creativity.