Monday, January 11, 2016

Math the fun way: Tangrams

Ever heard of tangrams? Well they are puzzles that you can create out of very basic geometric shapes. It is really quite amazing the number of different pictures you can make out of only 7 shapes.

As a former math tutor, I am constantly looking for fun ways to introduce mathematical concepts to my kids and this was a great excuse. First I showed them the pieces. As we played, we talked about different shapes, counted sides. We talked about how the shapes were alike/ different from each other. 

Then I brought the images of the animals cut out of chipboard and asked then to try to put the pieces back in place. 

Here they had to exercise their spacial reasoning skills as well as patience and something I am trying very hard to instill in them: perseverance. I want their focus to be on the "trying hard" part rather than "getting it right" part. Overall I just think this was a fabulous activity. 

So here's how to make your own tangram set. There are many websites where you can find the tangram templates. I used 
this one and opened it in Silhouette Studio. I used the tracing tool to obtain cutlines. I made sure to change the size of all objects together (pressing the shift key as I selected each one) that way there wouldn't be any mismatch between the geometrical shapes and puzzle cutout. 

Each puzzle piece was made by gluing together 5 stacked copies of the particular shape cut out of chipboard. Next I used adhesive felt (cut by hand, since I wasn't sure my Cameo could tackle it). I used shapes to cover the top and bottom of each piece and a thin strip to cover the sides. And voila! 

I made two sets so my boys could play simultaneously. I don't have a Curio (yet...) but if you do, you could probably make the pieces out of a thicker material like foam. 
For the animal cutout, like I said, I just used the "tracing tool" to obtain cutlines and added a rectangle around it so I could use the negative space as the puzzle base. Ta-da!! 

Oh and if you are wondering about the red plastic thing where I store these, it came with a Crayola coloring set that was dutifully used and has now been repurposed. It's perfect for carrying around in long drives. I covered the cardboard with flannel and placed on each flap and guess what?! The felt pieces "stick" to the flannel. 

Hope this inspires you to do something fun with your kids!

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