Tangram Geometry

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


Program Background Unit Plan Lesson Plan Teaching the Lesson


Lesson Topic: Becoming familiar with the 7-piece Tangram set and following oral instructions to create a personal version of the set


Standards to Be Addressed

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Grade 3-5 Geometry Standard:

Analyzing characteristics and properties of two- and three-dimensional geometric shapes and develop mathematical arguments about geometric relationships.

Applying transformations and using symmetry to analyze mathematical situations.


Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, ESL Standards for Pre-K Students

Guiding Questions


Content Area Skills and Concepts

Language Skills

Math Vocabulary




Thinking/Study Skills



Motivation (15-20 minutes)

Whole Group Activity

Read aloud Grandfather Tang’s Story: A Tale Told with Tangrams. Discuss the 7 pieces of the Tangram introduced in the story and point out their origins in China. Preview the idea that a wide variety of animals and figures can be made with the Tans.


Teaching/Learning Activities (30-45 minutes)

Whole Group Activity

Demonstrate how the 7 Tangram Tans can be flipped, rotated, and rearranged to produce different designs, referring to Grandfather Tang’s Story.


Use overhead, poster, or magnetic Tangram pieces to identify and label all 7 Tangram pieces. Briefly discuss the fact that some of the pieces are the same size (congruent) and some are the same shape but not the same size (similar).


Pair Activity

Pair students with their math partners and distribute Tangram kits and a template with the outline of a design that the students will make. Students work in pairs to use the Tans to complete the design. Students should be encouraged to use the precise math vocabulary and language structures noted above. Teacher will circulate providing hints as needed.


Whole Group Activity

Meet back as a whole class to have students share their experiences in creating their designs, review the names of the seven Tans, review the concepts of similar and congruent, and set the stage for the subsequent lessons which will focus on more complex designs.



Observe students as they work in pairs to complete their designs. Are they able to work together using precise mathematical language?


Examine finished sets for accuracy. Circulate while students work on shapes, paying close attention to the ability of individual students to flip, slide, and rotate pieces to make shapes. When they are stuck, can they follow peer instructions? Do students give each other instructions using precise mathematical language? Do students work together using the appropriate content and functional language structures to guide their interactions and complete their activity?



The unit on Tangrams can be the basis for future activities in math, art, and writing. Students can write a story similar to Grandfather Tang’s Story that uses Tangram designs as illustrations or use Tangram figures to complete mathematical problems, such as finding the area of a square or other geometrical shape. Students can work on Tangram puzzles during center time, recreating designs from books or creating their own designs and recording them on paper.