In this project, you'll make a tangram puzzle using printable patterns with puzzles in two sizes. The tangram is a puzzle game that originated in China during the 1800s. It rapidly spread to the United States and Europe, and became very popular with both children and adults. Each tangram puzzle has seven pieces, also called tans, cut from one large square—two large triangles, one medium-sized triangle, two small triangles, one square, and one parallelogram. It is a puzzle that requires imagination and creativity.
At the end of this project page, there are puzzle sheets with several shapes that you are challenged to duplicate, along with solutions to the puzzles. There are also rules for playing with the tangram puzzle and a puzzle sheet for the animal shapes in the storybook, Grandfather Tang's Story.
Choose the tangram puzzle size that you want to make—large: 7.75" (19.6cm) or small: 3.875" (9.8cm). Download and print the tangram puzzle pattern. It is best to print on cardstock. If you don't have any cardstock, print on paper. Print the colored patterns on white cardstock or paper, and print black and white patterns on colored cardstock or paper—or you can print on white paper and color the puzzle as you like.
The wood grain puzzles look particularly nice when printed on glossy photo paper. Glue the photo paper to cardstock, or apply adhesive felt to the back. This is sure to be a favorite set.
Patterns are Adobe PDF files. The Adobe Reader is available for free.
All of Aunt Annie's project patterns are designed to be printed on standard letter-size paper (8.5"x11" or A4). When printing from Adobe Reader, you may need to select Auto-Rotate and Center or Choose paper source by PDF page size to ensure the best fit.
If you printed a pattern on paper, it will need to be stiffened. Do a rough cut of the tangram puzzle and glue it to a piece of cardboard a little bigger than the puzzle. Cereal box cardboard works well.
Be sure that the glue completely covers the back of the tangram puzzle. Also make sure that there are no loose corners or sides. To make a very nice puzzle, glue another piece of colored paper to the back of the cardboard.
Tip: For puzzles printed on cardstock, make a sturdier puzzle by gluing the printed pattern to another piece of cardstock.
Cut the tangram puzzle into seven pieces on the solid black lines. Try to make your cuts very straight. The tangram puzzle will work better and be more fun with straight edges.
It is easier to make straight cuts with a craft knife and ruler. Protect your work surface with thick cardboard or a cutting mat. Place the ruler along the line to be cut, then carefully draw the craft knife along the ruler's edge. Be sure to keep your fingertips away from the knife. Kids require adult supervision when using a craft knife!
There are two ways to play with tangrams. One way is to try to duplicate shapes from a simple outline of the shape. Another way uses your imagination and sense of fun to create new designs. The most common designs are silhouettes of animals, people, and objects.
A mathematician has calculated that there are at least 1600 designs that can be made with the seven tangram pieces/tans. Use more than one puzzle set, and the possibilities grow even larger. How many designs can you create?
When playing with tangrams, keep these simple rules in mind:
Print a puzzle sheet, and try to create the shapes with your tangram puzzle pieces. The small tangram puzzle is sized to fit the shapes on the Square and Geometric Shapes puzzle sheets. Printable tangram solution sheets are available, if needed. For more details, see the separate puzzle sheet web page.