Tangrams are a great thing to incorporate into the mathematics classroom because they are fun, intersting, and meaningful. Tangrams "help students develop mathematical concepts of fractions, spatial awareness, geometry, area, and perimeter" (Rigdon, D., et al., 2000, p. 304.305). Because tangrams involve physical manipulatives as well as virtual manipulatives (online tangram activities), this caters to a variety of learning styles. Students who may learn better with maniuplitives or through the use of computers will find tangrams to be an experience in mathematics that they might not otherwise have. Tangrams present a new, interesting, hands- on way to deal with topics that most often are or can be quite boring and meaningless.
Not only are tangrams a great way to help make geometry, fractions, etc. engaging, they also help make it authentic. For example, they "can be arranged to make animals, birds, sea creatures, people and other figures" (Bohning, G., et al., 1997, p. 83-87). In mathematics, it is very important that children explore with a hands-on, minds-on attack in a problem solving environment. Tangrams promote this idea through open-ended explorations. Through tangrams they are involved in manipulating and problem solving.
By using tangram shapes, children learn the relationships between shapes. Additionally, children learn that three basic shapes, the triangle, square, and parallelogram, can fit together to form many other shapes and figures.
When learning a new concept, it is important to interact with multiple representations of the same idea and be able to translate from one to the other. Critics of direct methods say that teaching things “in isolation from how they are applied, diminishes learners’ problem solving and reasoning skills,” (Roblyer, M.D., 2003, chap. 3), therefore through tangrams, children are interacting with mathematical concepts in a new way, which helps to make the learning deeper.
Not only are tangrams a good way for children to explore mathematics, children actullay find them intersting and like to invent their very own designs. This is very important bacause if the child is interested then half of the battle of reaching them is accomplished. Children realize that from geometric shapes they can make things they see in everyday life such as dogs, cats etc. The great thing about tangrams is that not all children will make for example a dog in the same way, and that is fine because with tangrams nothing is "set in stone." This not only helps to promote divergent thinking, but it encourages children to take risks because they know that there isn't just one correct way of doing it.
Another reason why tangrams are important and intersting is that "Tangrams have both geometric and artistic features. Children gain geometric insights as they discover and discuss the relationships among the tangram pieces and what they can represent" (Bohning, G., et al., 1997, p. 83-87). Children are naturally curious so trying to solve a puzzle involving tangrams is going to provoke their curiousity and therefore be interesting so they will be engaged in what they are doing. Also, tangrams promote growth in learning, for example, when children become experienced buliding things from tangrams, they can be challenged even more by experimenting with double tangrams, etc.