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A tangram literally means “7 boards of skill” and goes way back to China a long, long, long time ago. Tangrams feed your brain concepts like fractions, geometry, spatial reasoning,  symmetry… all while employing problem solving, fine motor, and patience with a side of art.  And, most kids and adults have fun with them.


When I was assigned to write a “tiered lesson plan” for a Differentiated Learning class, I knew Tangrams would be a fun topic to build a lesson plan for my own children and one my 2nd graders would enjoy. If you want to see what a formal differentiated lesson plan looks like Click Here!  (Hug your teachers, they study and work hard! )

Here we go! Let’s start with a fantastic differentiation tool.

The Tic-Tac-Toe Learning Board! Click for your own FREE copy! 


I designed this specific tic tac toe board around TANGRAMS! The cool thing is you can use this strategy a 100+ ways. We all love choices, so building a lesson around choices does this magic thing to children called buy-in and revs up the excitement level of learning. The very act of choosing and organizing their projects is learning in itself, not to mention it’s in a game format which adds a twist of self-motivation. Brainstorm with me for a minute: chore charts, lunch/snacks menus, home learning, new vocabulary words, to do lists, idea board for when kids are “bored”…

Back to the lesson…before they saw the Tic Tac Toe Tangram Board,  I read Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert. In my 2nd grade classroom, I read the story and picked students to build the animals projected on the Smart Board. They loved it! I added this Tangram Activity into our Math Workshop Stations. I mounted the cards on construction paper, laminated, and will keep these with a copy of the book. Also, for higher level thinking, I printed a second copy and colored them in with a sharpie. I glued it on the back so the student has the choice of building with help, or without.


Sweet Grandfather Tang tells his granddaughter a story as he builds pictures to match using tangrams. My 14 page packet is available in my Teacher’s Notebook and Teachers Pay Teachers store for $4.99. Click the picture above or the store icons on my homepage sidebar. Add in the tic-tac-toe board above to extend learning.

Here’s a closer walk through the Tic Tac Toe Tangram Choices:

Technology Tangrams: Tan Zen App Lite (in the picture above) and ABCya Tangrams is free and fun!

This is how my son often reacts to sensory, which is why l like to keep it in the mix..

Tangram Sensory: Sandgrams! (I used brown sugar)

Notice he pushed all the sensory away…using a tangram;)

I tried a different day with sandpaper tangrams. He liked it!

All this tangraming has made us hungry…Have a Tangram Snack!

Or maybe just a slice of cheese?

Create a Game using Floor Tangrams: Ava’s game was called “Dance and Build”. She asked me to crank up some music. We took turns dancing while a person made a new design. I may have changed the words to some 90s hip hop songs to include the word Tangrams. You’ll never know.

Ava used her Tangrams to write her story. She came up with a “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” format. In the classroom, this would make a great class book to share.

Welcome to Tangram City!

Tangram Painting of a Windmill with Squiggle Wind

With the ANYgrams activity, Maya decided to divide a heart shape into pieces and she built 3 puzzles for us to solve. This really stretched her brain…and mine!

Here’s a free Tangram Template!

Happy Tangraming! –Shelisa

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  1. I LOVE tangrams! You have some great ideas ~ I love the “eating math for lunch” 🙂

  2. These tangram ideas are great – thanks for posting this!

  3. Wow so many great ideas here! I will have to check out the app, and the sandwich looks fun!

  4. My biggest takeaway from this post is the tic-tac-toe strategy. I wish they had used it in my daughter’s K class — it would have solved a LOT of issues. And, I may implement it at home — choice is key and, if you have a structure in place that points to ‘appropriate choices’ (especially 9 of them!) then you’re golden!

    I love how many different ways you found to explore tangrams.

    Also, I had to laugh about the sensory tangrams and your son pushing all the sugar/sand away with the shapes. If that had been my daughter she would have been playing only with the sugar and would have rubbed it all over her face or and up her arms to her elbows, and possibly put it in her hair, not to mention tasting it multiple times, lol!

    • Thanks Malke! You’d think the 3rd kid would love messes. He did take a bite of the sugar, neatly, and brushed his hands off afterwards. My middle kid sounds like your daughter! She NEEDS the sensory to learn. I’m excited to try the Tic Tac Toe board in different ways. I could basically predict which activities they would each be excited about. And, my middle daughter, went for a “blackout” and did every single one! Watching my 3 choose and complete the choices was a great reminder of the value in offering choices in a classroom of 25. So many personalities and learning styles, working towards a common goal.

  5. That grilled cheese sandwich in particular is a stroke of brilliance! Thanks for the great ideas, and the links. I’ll definitely be following you from now on. 🙂

  6. Love using food to learn! Saw your link at Toys in the Dryer! Great post! I’ll have to look for that book at our library– thanks!

  7. Love all of your tangram ideas! Grandfather Tang’s Story is one of our favorite books. Thanks for sharing these wonderful activities.

  8. No way! Tangram sandwich?! You’re a genius! Thanks for sharing at oopsey daisy!

  9. This is a great post. I thought the sandwich was particularly inspiring.

  10. That’s so awesome! I can’t wait to find Grandfather Tang’s Story at the library. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  11. KC in VA says:

    Aside: I love that you have a niece named Tulip! That’s awesome! lol

  12. WOW… I HEART your website!! I need you as my mentor. I just started blogging. (1 week old) I love these ideas plus your very bright, whimsical and plan fun attititude. I am not technologically (okay…I try) saavy. If you have any advice of how to start off or how to create an inviting blog, I would love to it.
    Oh, I plan to use some of your super ideas as well. I teach 5th grade, however, I teach more like I did when I taught primary grades. It keeps me from falling asleep.

    • thinkmagnetkids says:

      Thanks so much Kim! And, welcome to the blogosphere! I’m approaching my 1 year blogaversary and, as much as I’ve learned, I still feel like I’m in the minor leagues. The bottom line is for me is: Write and share because you love it and hope for some meaningful connections. Be real. Be yourself. Have fun with it! Don’t fuss over your numbers or making money (if you figure that part out let me know!)Oh, and pace yourself. Find some fun linky parties, make a Facebook and pinterest page, and try your hand at guest posting around Blogtown. Keep most entries short and sweet. I adore my web designer (Spilled Milkshake link is on my homepage) who is very affordable, personable, and can help you kick it up a notch. Best wishes to you! Keep in touch!


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