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Ready-Set-Tech: Chinese Puzzle Story

Morris Gil, Fienberg Fischer Elementary, Miami, FL

Grade Level  3 and 4
Subject Social studies, language arts, fine art
Background In this lesson, students understand the concept of culture and traditions through a literature-based mathematical activity. Students will read a Chinese folktale which introduces the concept of geometric shapes through Chinese tangrams. The Chinese Tangram is an ancient Chinese puzzle that inspires imagination and creativity. More importantly, tangrams assist students in learning geometric concepts in a fun way. Tangrams are traditionally composed of seven geometric pieces (five triangles, a square and a rhomboid), the tangram can be arranged to show over 300 characters including people, letters, boats, and animals.  All seven pieces of the tangram must be utilized. This lesson is geared towards 3rd and 4th grade students but can be modified for younger students.
  1. Students will learn the history of Chinese tangrams.

  2. Students will construct a set of tangrams from construction paper and identify the geometric shape of each piece.

  3. Students will use all seven tangram pieces to make various geometric shapes.

  4. After reading "Grandfather Tang's Story," students will create shapes using their imaginations and tans.

  5. Students will use their tangram shapes to create own folktale.

Materials Book (Grandfather Tang’s Story)
Tangram template
Paper (Construction paper)
Computer with Internet access
  1. Begin the lesson by telling the students that cultures often pass on their traditions through storytelling.
  2. Write the word tangram on the board. Briefly explain the meaning of the word (Chinese puzzle made of seven geometric figures).
  3. Inform the students that they will listen to a folktale that describes tangram.
  4. Read the story “Grandfather Tang’s Story” by Ann Trompert
  5. Have the students learn more about the history of Chinese tangram by searching the Internet or using the suggested links.
  6. Discuss how tangrams are used to tell the story.
  7. Using construction paper, scissors, and tangram directions have students construct a set of tangrams.
  8. Discussion will follow with students identifying each geometric shape that make up a tangram.
  9. Have the students use their tangram to create the animals in the story using puzzle worksheet.
  10. Inform the students that tangrams can be use to make hundreds of shapes.
    Have students write out their own stories in which the characters change into different creatures.
  11. Have students use their tangram pieces and their imaginations to create their own shapes of animals, people, etc. for their story.
  12. Students can share their story with the class and have the others students guess the type or name of creature based on their description.  
Evaluation Grandfather Tang's rubric

http://tangrams.ca/index.htm : great reference site, with history of tangrams, samples, and software downloads.

http://ex.ac.uk/cimt/puzzles/tangrams/tangint.htm : general resource page on tangram with examples.

http://mathforum.org/trscavo/tangrams/ : online directions to create own tangram puzzle pieces.

http://smm.org/sln/tf/t/tans/tans.html : Thinking foundation site with puzzle samples and directions.

http://kidscom.com/games/tangram/game4/tangram04.html : online tangram game sponsor by Kidscom

http://mathsyear2000.org/games/index.shtml : Count On - online tangram game.

http://funorama.com/tangram.html : download and print tangram puzzles.

http://pbskids.org/sagwa/games/tangrams/magistrate/ : online tangram game based on the book "The Chinese Siamese Cat," written by Amy Tan and sponsor by PBS show Sagwa.

http://ac.wwu.edu/~mnaylor/tangrams/tangrams.jpg : tangram puzzle shape to print.

http://edex.com.au/pdf/tn060566.pdf : tangram lesson activities by Educational Experience.

http://joethedragon.co.uk/maths/tangrams.html : interactive online tangram game with tons of puzzles.

http://cs.uu.nl/~markov/kids/tangram/ : free tangram software


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