Tangram Fun


Tangram is an ancient Chinese puzzle consisting of seven geometric shapes cut out of a single sheet of square paper. Apart from providing fun as a game it is an interesting tool to familiarise children with geometrical shapes.

If you happen to be a student or teacher of geometry and you are finding it difficult to grasp or put across the properties of geometrical shapes respectively, perhaps playing an ancient game of Chinese origin will give you a fresh insight into some of the basic concepts of the subject.

The ones who do not belong to either category may find the absorbing brain game fascinating. For the readers who are still in the process of guessing the name of the game – here are a few leading clues.

Let us assume that you are given just one sheet of paper and no other item of stationery, are you likely to have fun besides being educated on the basics of geometry? Eight out of ten people are likely to experiment with your paper folding skills and make paper boats or boxes or any other model you are familiar while those who lack imagination are prone to simply tear the paper into little bits out of sheer frustration. If you have still not arrived at the answer, well, it is the “Tangram”.

Tangram is an ancient Chinese puzzle, consisting of 7 geometric shapes, cut out of a single sheet of square paper. It consists of five congruent triangles inclusive of two identical pairs along with one square and one parallelogram in all.
If you are under the impression that their lives must have been dreadfully boring for want of creativity and excitement then you are awfully wrong. These seven pieces kept people absorbed and occupied in an era sans any technical aid when they went on to compile images of people, animals, geometrical shapes and things in a hundred thousand ways. They followed some ground rules while playing the game. The seven pieces of the puzzle were always based on the same model, albeit in different proportions.

If you follow the instructions carefully and cut the paper along the lines of the picture illustrated, your basic puzzle will be ready in no time.

You will need a square sheet of paper – (any paper of any size will do) and a pair of scissors to see you through the exercise. Determine the sides as ABCD as shown in the figure to make the process easier. Fold the sheet diagonally along CB and cut the sheet into two equal triangles.

Take triangle ABC and fold it by half along OA and cut along the line to make two equal triangles. Now the first two pieces of the tangram are ready.

Take triangle BDC and fold the paper from point D in such a way that it touches the centre point of CB at O and cut out the triangle PQD.

Now you will be left with quadrilateral CBPQ on paper. Fold it by half at points OR, and cut it into two.

Work on quadrilateral ORBQ. Measure OR and consider it to be the length of the side of a square and cut out a square such that the other three sides also measure the same. You will find the remainder paper BYQ in the form of a triangle.

In the quadrilateral ORPC, place triangle BYQ and cut out a triangle ORX. This will leave parallelogram XRPC which will constitute to the seventh piece of the tangram.

Once you have all the seven pieces ready, it is important to remember the rules of the game.

*All the seven pieces must be ideally used while making a model.

*Extra puzzle pieces from another puzzle should not be used as it will defeat the wholeness of the game.

*If you want to create more than one model at a time, you can use pieces of another puzzle in its entirety.

*If you try out some of the models as shown in the pictures in column one it will serve as a launch pad to your creativity.

Though the rules of the game appear to be very constraining once the player imbibes them, nothing on earth can keep him from trying out new designs even if he only has a scrap of paper like a bus ticket on him.

Even mere babies attending Montessori and kindergarten classes can be introduced to the world of tangrams made of more durable material like unbreakable plastic or metals. Primary school students can be guided through the procedure of making a tangram by parents and teachers all the while helping them to get familiar with the features of geometrical shapes and the rules of playing the game.

Once you develop a fascination for the tangram puzzles, not only will you revel in the joys of geometry but will also be left wondering whether Shakespeare’s observation of Cleopatra when he said, “Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety” could be true of tangrams too.

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