Monday, March 26, 2007

What is a tangram?

The tangram is among the most popular of all dissection puzzles that exist today. A tangram is an ancient, unique, Chinese puzzle that consists of seven (geometric) pieces: one square, five triangles and one parallelogram. When all pieces are put together, they form one big square, when they are sperated, they form what is called a tan. Of the five triangles there are two large, two small and one medium in size. "The large triangle is twice the area of the medium triangle. The medium triangle, the square, and the parallelogram are each twice the area of the small triangle. Each angle of the square measures 90 degrees. Each triangle contains a 90 degree and two 45 degree angles, which makes them isosceles right triangles. The parallelogram contains 45 degree and 135 degree angles" (Bohning, G., et al., 1997, p. 3).

The relationship among the pieces enables them to fit together to form many figures and arrangements. However, the tangram is more than a seven piece square. When it comes to tangrams, the challenge is to arrange the pieces to form additional shapes. The seven pieces can be arranged to make anything form a rabbit, to the alphabet, to a person. "The tangram is the opposite of a jigsaw puzzle. Instead of fitting the pieces together in only one way, the seven tangram pieces can be arranged to make a great number of different figures" (Bohning, G., et al., 1997, p. 4).
Here are some possible shapes that can be made using tangrams:

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