Tangram Geometry

Michael Ilan Loeb, PS 89—The Cypress Hills Community School


Program Background Unit Plan Lesson Plan Teaching the Lesson


This unit on Tangram geometry was originally created as an extension of a 2-D geometry unit in Everyday Math and as part of an ongoing social studies unit on Asia. It also has ties to visual arts and language arts. The book Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told with Tangrams introduces the interdisciplinary unit. It is an engaging tale of friendly competition that encourages students to make predictions. It introduces the 7 pieces of the Tangram, addresses their origins in China, and most importantly, shows a wide variety of animals and figures that can be made with the Tans. This last aspect of the book is particularly important when working with second language learners, because it provides a visual preview for the activity that will follow. This book is especially useful as motivation for the lesson by bringing together the artistic expression demonstrated in the illustrations, the use of Tangrams as a basis for writing, and the explicit connections made between Tangram geometry and Chinese culture.


Trying to make basic shapes or copy Tangram designs without a model that shows how to arrange pieces is frustrating. Students may not remember to rotate or flip shapes. There are many things that the teacher can do to help reduce the cognitive demands of this task. First, by preparing different versions of the same outline with varying numbers of clues, the teacher will be able to help students achieve the content objectives. Second, by providing students with the vocabulary and the language structures that go with them, and by modeling the use of these language forms, the teacher will help ensure that the students meet the language objectives for the lesson. These types of visual and linguistic scaffolds are particularly essential in TWI classrooms because of the varying levels of language proficiency in the class.