Butterfly Tangram Puzzle
Free Printable Color Version
What is a Tangram?
The Tangram is an ancient Chinese puzzle whose exact date of invention and origin remain a mystery. The puzzle consists of 7 individual shapes known as ‘tans’. These ‘tans’ are manipulated to form the silhouette of an image. In this case, the Tangram Puzzle is solved when it forms a butterfly.
Why Use Tangrams in the Classroom?
Tangrams are great for building logical reasoning, non-verbal reasoning, problem-solving skills, perseverance and a positive attitude towards geometry.
Possible Ways You Might Like to Use This Tangram Puzzle:
in a dedicated puzzle solving block
as an ‘Early finisher’ activity.
for Brain Breaks
as a focusing/settling activity after lunch
as a Homework task
when someone or something has been canceled and you find yourself with a little time on your hands 😉
as part of a Math Showcase / Parent Involvement Night
What You Need:
1 tangram puzzle for each student —> Get a Printable Tangram Here
1 pair of scissors for each student
a writing implement
1 unsealed paper envelope
A Possible Tangram Puzzle Process:
Here is a process I developed during my years in the classroom. Feel free to give it a go and see if it works.
Introduce the tangram puzzle on a Monday with about 15 or 20 minutes of a Math session to go. I like to project the task card onto the whiteboard from either the website or the PDF. Explain the goal of the puzzle i.e. to manipulate the smaller shapes to form an image of a butterfly.
Start cutting out the Tangram pieces out yourself at the front of the room as you explain the task. Seamlessly transition from talking about the puzzle to giving tips for cutting out the tangram pieces. ‘Notice how I am cutting really close to the edge of the shape and I am taking my time to do it carefully’. ‘Why? I hear you ask… well… can you imagine what some people might say if all the pieces do not line up neatly? Not mentioning any names…’ 🙂 But seriously, rough cuts make the puzzle really hard to solve. It is much better to spend a little extra time doing this well.’ Students cut out the puzzle at the same time.
Discuss useful problem-solving strategies while cutting out the puzzle e.g. constant manipulation of the pieces, guess and check, looking for patterns, etc Feel free to add your own banter and anecdotes to create a relaxed problem-solving atmosphere.
Very Important – Have students initial the back of each of their tangram puzzle pieces.
Once the pieces are all cut out the students can begin the task of solving their puzzle.
When packing up, students place their puzzle pieces into an unsealed envelope with their name on the front for storage.
Tips for Introducing a New Puzzle:
Use an online Tangram to project the puzzle onto the screen and discuss the skills required to experience success in doing tangram puzzles. Here is one I have used previously —-> Online Tangram —> Be sure to turn the sound down 🙂
Note the limitations of these sorts of apps and sites – A major part of solving tangram puzzles is the ability to easily flip, rotate and manipulate the pieces quickly in order to look for patterns and ‘flashes of inspiration’. Personally, I find electronic tangram apps cumbersome. I find the ability to manipulate the pieces very slow and this takes students away from practicing the skills they need to be effective problem solvers in this realm. I much prefer to use real world Tangrams for this sort of activity. That said, be sure to have students explore all options and decide for themselves what they prefer. This is a very valuable discussion to have.
Possible Ways to Record the Tangram Puzzle Solution:
- Have students trace the puzzle pieces in the shape of the solution
- Students glue their solution down onto colored paper leaving gaps so the individual shapes are visible.
- Students photograph their solution for a portfolio.
- Recreate the puzzle solution using an IPad app and screenshot it.
Possible Ways to Display Puzzle Solutions:
use blu tack to stick the solutions from above onto the classroom windows
use magnets to display the solutions on metal objects like fridges
pin the solutions to the classroom walls
celebrate the solving of puzzles to publish some of the student solutions in the school newsletter.
Tangram Puzzle Storage Tips:
Dream if you will a classroom, an ocean of young minds in bloom… you hold up a single tangram puzzle piece found on the floor.
‘Is anyone missing a piece?’
The silence is deafening. It seems no pieces have gone astray… but alas… here it is. 🙂
An Easier Way:
NB Much pain and suffering will be avoided if you heed this advice 🙂
Students initial each tangram puzzle piece AS they cut it out.
Store the tangram puzzles in an unsealed envelope with the student’s name on the front.
Students keep the envelope in their desk or storage tray for easy access.
This envelope strategy makes transport of the puzzle to and from school easy but it is not a panacea for, ‘I left it at home’.
Tangram Task Card Storage Tips:
Once laminated, use a hole punch to create 2 holes and then slot the Tangram Task Card into a ring binder to create a class book.
Put a single hole in the top left corner of the Tangram Task Card then slide it on to a shower curtain ring.
Store answers separately to task cards. I like to use the phrase, ‘This is a problem-solving task, not a looking up the answers in the back of the book task’ hehehe
Experiment & Ponder:
The skill set required for completing Tangrams by making the pieces fit inside a solid outline are vastly different from having no template to bound the pieces. After years of observing students complete this type of puzzle, my initial tasks involve using the solid outline type of activity (referred to in the literature as ‘cover up Tangrams’) as a scaffold and then move to the no outline version when students get the hang of the puzzles.
Included in this Download:
1 Tangram Puzzle Task Card – this states and shows what shape has to be made
1 Tangram Puzzle Solution – to only be used as a last resort 🙂
2 color sets of Tangram pieces
How to Download This Tangram Puzzle Task Card:
Add the tangram puzzle to your Cart using the ‘Add to Cart’ Button. NB You can only get the resources 2 puzzles at a time. #longstory
Press the very small ‘View Cart’ Button at the very top right of this page.
Press the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ Button
Add your email address to prove you are human
Press ‘Place Order’ and then scroll down to ‘Order Details’ and click on your resource there. It will open ready to save, print, cut out and use.
Tangram Printing Tip:
I like to print these Tangram puzzle task cards onto card stock and then laminate them. Personally, I prefer 200g card as it gives the resources added weight and it is not too heavy to go through the printer.
Paper is Good. Solid is Better:
When it comes to Tangrams I really do like to use wooden ones. There is something about feeling the weight of the pieces in your hand. NB You can pick them up in bargain shops very cheap if you happen to be in the right place at the right time or online.
Taking it Further:
Encourage the students to visit the site and become problem seekers i.e Students who actively seek out problems to solve rather than wait for them to be given.
How about an Online Boggle Game or a Collection of Math Games
or maybe some Math Game Spinners or perhaps some more Math Puzzles