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Lesson Plans
Teaching Tangrams
3rd–5th Grade
Objectives Objectives
  • Students will identify and compare 2-D shapes.
  • Students will understand the difference between congruent and similar shapes.
  • Students will create and extend patterns.
  • Students will combine shapes to create new shapes.
Materials Materials Needed

Print and copy the tangrams template, tangram picture-matching cards, pattern blocks template and “Shapes Gallery” activity mat. You will need one copy of each for each student. You can cut out the tangram shapes and pattern blocks in advance, or have students cut them out during the lesson. (You also can use the Pattern Blocks, Tangrams and Tangram Picture Matching Cards for this lesson.)

Introduction Introduction

Read aloud Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told with Tangrams.

Show students the seven tangram shapes (two small triangles, two large triangles, one medium triangle, one square and one parallelogram). Tell students that tangrams originated in China. The story introduced only a few of the many shapes and figures that can be made with tangrams.

Procedure Procedure

  1. Invite students to identify the seven tangram shapes.
  2. Explain that shapes that are identical in size and form—such as the two small triangles—are said to be congruent. Shapes that are identical in form but not in size—such as the small, medium and large triangles—are said to be similar.
  3. Provide each student with a set of tangram shapes. Invite students to explore and share the different shapes and designs they can make by flipping, rotating and rearranging the seven shapes.
  4. As students are engaged in manipulating the shapes, invite student volunteers to demonstrate how some of the animals and figures from the story are made.

Guided Practice Guided Practice

  1. Pair students with a partner and give each pair two to three tangram picture-matching cards.
  2. Challenge the pair to work together using one set of tangrams to complete each picture. Explain that some shapes are outlined in the pictures, and some are not.
  3. After students have completed the challenge, invite volunteers to share with the class how they determined which pieces to use and how they placed their pieces to complete their pictures.
  4. Invite students to make their own tangram pictures on a separate sheet of paper.

Extension Activity

Extension Activity

Have students extend what they have learned about tangrams to complete a similar activity using pattern blocks:

  1. Give each student a set of pattern blocks, along with a copy of the “Shapes Gallery” activity mat.
  2. Encourage students to position their pattern blocks on the paper to complete each design.
  3. After students complete the task, invite them to discuss how they determined which shape belonged in each position. Help them identify the vertices, angles and sides of the various shapes as they discuss them.

View the 3rd–5th Grade lesson plan. (Includes all printable materials.)
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