Introduction: The Education of Wang Shen: a Tale Told With Tangrams
Tangrams are a Chinese puzzle consisting of seven pieces. There are two large right triangles, one medium right triangle, one square, one parallelogram, and two small right triangles. The pieces are combined to make the shapes of animals, people, and things.
Grandfather Tang's Story is commonly cited as a resource for tangrams, but it is difficult to use tangrams in conjunction with that otherwise excellent story. I sought to write a prequel that includes tangram exploration and a strategy for solving tangrams.
This lesson allows students the opportunity to act out or model with manipulatives activities involving mathematical content from literature and/or story telling (New York State Education Department, 2005, p.25) and compose (put together) and decompose (break apart) two-dimensional shapes (p.30).
Step 1: Materials
Print a copy of the 4-inch Tangram and The Education of Wang Shen. Cut out the paper tangram. You can make the tangram out of felt or fabric for easy handling. The Education of Wang Shen is formatted to be printed double-sided and bound.
Using a document camera and LCD projector to project the pages, read "The Education of Wang Shen" to the students.
For the Using/Make activities on pages 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, pause to allow students to work independently on the solution.
Select a student to come up and share their solution using the document camera. Consult the solution page as needed.
For the figures on pages 11, 13, 15, and 17, pause after each statement to allow students to place the specified pieces.
Place, or have a student place, the specified pieces on the figure before continuing to the next statement.
There is only one solution for pages 11 and 13. Pages 15 and 17 have two solutions. Consult the solution page as needed.
After finishing the book, students may work on solutions for the figures on pages 1, 2, 9, 19, and 20, or students may work on creating their own figures.
There are many more tangram resources available for touchscreens and tablets.
I must still recommend the Online Tangram Puzzles at the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives.
The procedures for flipping and turning pieces is well explained.
The figures and the tangrams are the same size. For young students, it is developmentally appropriate to have figures and tangrams be the same size. It is an abstraction to combine figures and tangrams of different sizes.
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. (n.d.) Tangram Puzzles. Retrieved April 7, 2008 from
New York State Education Department. (2005) Mathematics core curriculum:
MST standard 3 prekindergarten-grade 12. Retrieved April 7, 2008 from