These puzzles are very popular with students from kindergarten through grade 3. Having only five pieces instead of the classic seven makes them much less intimidating for many people. Students who enjoy these puzzles may be encouraged to try the classic tangrams.
Making the pieces
I use craft foam because it is easy to handle and lasts very well, but if you
are in a hurry, you could make them out of cardstock. Here is the template for
which fit into my puzzles. Colour-coding the shapes makes it easier to check
that a set is complete and to compare solutions to puzzles. Here are templates
to make many copies of each shape:
For classroom demonstration and discussion, I’ve found it helpful to make a
magnetic set of pieces by sticking a foam set to shapes cut from magnetic
I like to review the names of the pieces first. The only piece that may be
unfamiliar is the parallelogram, but even kindergarteners are more than capable
of learning the word – after all, it’s got the same number of syllables as
“tyrannosaurus”, which they can rattle off with ease.
While we are all looking at the board, I ask if anyone can see how to make one
of the pieces out of two of the others. Usually the first student to volunteer
arranges the two small triangles to mimic the orange square. Then I ask for
someone to use those same small triangles to make the same size and shape as the
green triangle, and after that has been done, ask for someone to show us how to
make the blue parallelogram out of those two small triangles. That is trickier –
it may help to suggest that the volunteer place the smaller shapes over the big
one to see how they fit together. This leads to the printed puzzles.
Now everyone gets their own set of five pieces and the first page of puzzles.
Sometimes we go through several of these together before I turn the students
loose to go at their own speed. Depending on the age of the class and their
ability to reflect on their experiences, at the end of the session we might
discuss what makes a puzzle easier or harder to solve.
Here are the puzzles themselves: