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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans

Tantalizing Tangrams

Project URL:


How it works:
This is a third grade mathematics program in which students identify polygons and develop spatial and fractional relationships and geometric concepts by using the ancient Chinese puzzle of tangrams. Integrated into this unit is a language arts component in which students develop an appreciation of the folk tale by first identifying its elements and then writing their own tales. In the first lesson, students identify the shapes of the tangrams, listen to two folk tales, and then retell them by forming the shapes of the folk tale characters with the tangrams. In lesson two, the students identify the elements of a folk tale and write an original story that incorporates characters that can be formed by using tangrams. In lesson three, students develop geometric concepts such as rotations, reflections, and translations using tangrams. In lesson four, students develop concepts related to fractional equivalence. Lastly, in lesson five, tangrams are used to develop and reinforce the concept of the area of polygons.

Standards addressed:  

Students develops spatial pattern recognition; discern the whole from its randomly scattered parts; create, describe, and analyze patterns to recognize relationships and make predictions; identify, compare, and analyze attributes of two-dimensional shapes; understand and use properties of symmetry, similarity, and congruence; and build new mathematical knowledge through problem solving and showing relationships between figures. They develop an understanding of translations (slides), rotations (turns), and reflections (flips); describe and compare quantities by using concrete, real-world models of simple fractions; and understand concepts of area and how changes in dimension affect the area of a polygon. They understand that measurement is approximate and that precision is related to the unit of measurement used and the calibration of the measurement tool. They read and comprehend books on the same subject or in the same genre, produce a response to literature, participate in group meetings, prepare and deliver a presentation, demonstrate a basic understanding of the rules of the English language in written and oral work, analyze and subsequently revise work to improve its clarity and effectiveness, and produce work in one genre that follows the conventions of the genre.

Materials used
Required materials include computers with Internet capabilities, a printer, word processing and drawing and painting software, tangram pieces, graph paper, and mirrors.

The students:
Tantalizing Tangrams is suitable for students in grades three through five. Since the work is done in cooperative groups, students with varying abilities in the areas of math, language arts, and computer skills work well together.

Overall value:
Through the hands-on nature of this program as well as the use of the Internet both as a research tool and as a means to "playing games" involving tangrams, students become motivated learners. Additionally, students develop pride in studying Chinese folk tales and writing their original folk tales to be shared with the class.

Teachers, you will enjoy doing the tangram puzzles as much as your students. Play along with them, but be careful--you may not want to stop!


Carolyn Hornik has been a New York City public school teacher for twenty five years (12 years as a classroom teacher in third, fourth, and fifth grades and 13 years as a technology coordinator.) She teaches in-service courses for the New York City Board of Education After School Professional Development Program and on-line courses for new teachers through Teachers Network.


Estimated Class Periods To Complete: 10 or more

Subject: English, Social Studies

Beginning Grade Level: 4

Ending Grade Level: 8



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