Tangrams are simple Chinese puzzles consisting of seven pieces that fit inside a larger square outline. Here you will find printable tangrams, DIY tangram instructions, and printable silhouette puzzles to solve!
What is a tangram…
Why are tangram puzzles awesome? They roll geometry, spatial awareness, problem solving and creativity all into one while seeming like plain old fun! Tangram puzzles are not new. In fact they have been around for centuries and are one of the most popular dissection puzzles in the world.
The objective is to use all seven pieces, or “tans,” of the puzzle to create new shapes, with no overlapping. While the pieces can be played with creatively, traditionally they are used as a puzzle; trying to make the shapes fit within a specific outline.
Check out the children’s book Grandfather Tang’s Story. This children’s book uses “tans” to tell the story. It shares a bit of the history of tangrams and a lot of the magic of this special family of shapes.
Wanna’ make a tangram puzzle yourself…..
Every tangram puzzle contains the following shapes; two large right triangles, one medium right triangle, two small right triangles, one square, and one parallelogram. All seven of these shapes come together to fill a larger square in its entirety.
A better mathematician than me could probably freehand these shapes to fit inside of a square, easy peasy.
I cannot. Printable tangrams it is.
An easy way to break these shapes down is to divide up a square of any size into a 4 x 4 grid. The light grey lines in the diagram above illustrate this. The black lines in the diagram are the tangram lines that would be cut to separate your shapes. (And if you’ve got kids that are super geniuses at this precise paper folding business check out these cute little origami bookmarks!)
Now that you know how the shapes break down you can translate this grid onto the material of your choosing. Think outside of the “paper’ box. Wood, plexiglass, and foam would all make excellent lasting tangram shapes!
If you’re working with younger kids or maybe a larger group of kids graphing all of those lines can be tricky. Below I’ve given you free printable tangrams. Just print this tangram template out on 8 x 11 paper and you’re ready to go! I love the idea of teaching kids to create these shapes themselves but that’s just not always feasible.
Use these free printable tangrams to get all of the creative problem solving and a little less frustration!
How to make a tangram puzzle….
If you print on copy weight paper now is a good time to glue your tangram template to something a bit heavier. I used a cereal box. Because I’m an art teacher with supply hoarding tendencies I have an excess of empty cereal boxes. Let’s call it upcycling, shall we? Cereal boxes make for some good art. They are heavy enough to be durable and light enough that kids can cut through them without it being painful!
Glue your entire tangram template to your cardboard then cut shapes out. Trust me. Cutting the shapes first is way more work and much harder to create precise shapes.
Make your own tangram puzzle…
Just because the shapes of a tangram puzzle are super specific doesn’t mean that they can’t be decorated and made unique. We used washi tape. Not only is it pretty and sparkly but it also serves to reinforce the edges and make the pieces last longer. Double win.
Imagine tangram puzzle pieces embellished by patterned paper, paint, natural materials, decoupage. There are endless possibilities.
How to solve a tangram puzzle…
The traditional way to play with tangram puzzles is to attempt to use all seven pieces, with no overlapping, to fill a given outline. Common themes are animals, numbers, and letters.
The printable below provides four printable outlines that can be solved using the tangram template above. When you grab the printable tangrams in my Resource Library these silhouettes are part of the deal! Print them out and they are sized to work perfectly with your puzzle pieces!
Want to grab this free tangram printable puzzle pack….
Do you want a copy of this printable tangram puzzle for your students to make? This gem is totally free for Kitchen Table Classroom subscribers.
Just fill in the details in the form below to become a KTC subscriber. Check your email and confirm that you really meant to subscribe. Upon confirmation you’ll receive the PDF immediately. It’s that easy!
As a subscriber you’ll begin to receive my weekly newsletters too! that means my newest ideas and printables will get delivered to your inbox making it easy to stay connected and creative with your kids!
What if you’re already a subscriber…
If you are already a subscriber- thank you! You can still fill out the form above to get this printable tangram. It’s super simple and you won’t be sent double the emails- I promise.
After you become a Kitchen table subscriber you’ll also receive a password to my Free Resource Library. My Resource Library is one more way to access these printable tangrams and browse all the free printables KTC has to offer! (I’m talking hundreds of free pages!)
More way to explore tangram puzzles…
If your kids enjoy tangram puzzles there are lots of ways to explore them like this magnetic tangram puzzle book. This single player game by Think Fun is a modern take on old fashioned tangram puzzles. And this wooden tangram puzzle is pretty enough to leave out on your coffee table.
These little puzzles are so simple but such great fodder for creative problem solving. Leave the screens behind and play!