Tangrams: An Ancient Chinese Puzzle and Modern Learning Tool
This traditional Chinese puzzle has been around for a very long time, and it gained popularity in the West in the 1800s. Despite being ancient, this deceptively simple-seeming puzzle has retained its appeal. This famed dissection puzzle continues to entertain generation after generation of puzzlers around the world. Yet, there is more to the tangram than meets the eye. It’s not simply an entertaining game. Researchers have learned that tangram puzzles are also powerful tools for education.
What is a Tangram Puzzle?
Tangram puzzles are a type of puzzle known as a “rearrangement puzzle,” or a “dissection puzzle.” The puzzle consists of seven pieces (one parallelogram, one square, and five variously sized triangles). The goal of tangram puzzling is to reproduce various shapes that utilize all of the pieces with every piece touching and none overlapping. For example, a tangram puzzle book might have silhouetted shapes like birds, animals, buildings, etc. It is possible to re-create the silhouettes using the seven tangram pieces. The tangram puzzle has maintained its popularity over the centuries because it’s fun. But researchers now believe that tangram puzzles are more than just “fun.” They’re also a great educational and developmental tool.
Tangrams as an Educational Tool
The very things that make tangram puzzles enjoyable are the things that make them a wonderful educational tool. For example, visualizing and moving the pieces to try and recreate a difficult shape is challenging and enjoyable. It’s also exercising your spatial awareness skills and strengthening them. Researchers have also found that tangrams appear to strengthen math skills in children. In one study, some children played with tangram-like puzzles for forty minutes before taking a math quiz. Others had comparable (but different) tasks, like crossword puzzles. The children that had the opportunity to play with the puzzles first scored better on the quiz. This may be because solving tangrams requires skills that are important in math, as well. For example, geometry and logic both come into play when solving tangrams. Even if the puzzler isn’t consciously thinking about geometry or classical logic, they are intuitively using these skills, which may leave their minds more attuned to mathematical solutions. Tangrams are even a great educational toy for toddlers. Although they may not be able to solve difficult silhouettes, there are children’s tangram puzzle sets that have the perfect challenges for their age like the Twisted Tangram Puzzle. Tangrams are a fantastic way to practice shapes and colors with young children.
Tangrams are for Everyone
Tangram puzzles are an enjoyable, meditative solo activity, and they’re also a great party game. They are wonderful for teaching toddlers hand-eye coordination and shapes, and they continue to offer us educational benefits as adults, too. Tangrams are an easy, fun, and creative way to exercise the mind. Today you can find many unique and fun designs of the classic square tangram, like the Heart Tangram, Egg Tangram, and even a Cat Tangram.