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Family Math Activity: Play with Shapes on a Tangram

Tangram shapes arranged in the shape of a duck
This tangram is arranged to form the shape of a duck. What other animals can you make? | Yesenia Prieto
In this activity, you will use a tangram to learn about shapes by making fun designs.
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Esta actividad también está disponible en español.

Your child can make and play with shapes using a special puzzle called a tangram. Tangrams are a fun way to learn about shapes and how problems can be solved in many ways.

What is a Tangram?

A tangram is a special puzzle invented in China containing seven pieces that form shapes. The pieces can be arranged to make animals, people, objects, and more!

Materials

A template for a tangram is laid out on a table alongside some scissors and colorful paper.
To make a tangram, all you need is the template. | Yesenia Prieto

Use the tangram worksheet to help you make your tangram. You can make a paper tangram by using scissors to cut out the pieces along the black lines. Alternatively, use the worksheet to guide your cuts and make a tangram using bread or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you are cutting these food items, do not worry about your cuts being perfect; if you need to, make five or six shapes instead of seven.

A tangram made out of a cut up peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
You can even make an edible sandwich tangram! | Yesenia Prieto

Playing with Shapes

Let your child play with the pieces of the tangram. Talk about the shapes of the pieces together, describing and comparing their attributes. For example, you might say, "Look at these two shapes with four sides. One has sides that are all the same and one has sides with different lengths. Do you think they are different in other ways?"

Building a Tangram

A tangram is arranged in the shape of a cat.
A tangram can become a kitty. | Yesenia Prieto

Encourage your child to arrange and rearrange the pieces to see what can be made. There is no "right" way to build a tangram! Try combining the pieces together to make different shapes. Can you make a house with a roof on top? A cat with two ears that point up? A boat with a sail? Together, try to come up with ideas of new shapes to make. Practice naming the shapes as your child places them. For example, you can say "Where should this smaller triangle go?" You do not need to use all seven pieces for every shape. Snap a picture of the shapes you make!

Related Workshop

This activity is part of our Shapes workshop, which helps parents and caregivers playfully build children's ability to recognize shapes.

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