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My class is working with shapes and spatial thinking right now in math.  Since I LOVE tangrams, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on that in my instruction.  While not all of the kids are enjoying them, a handful have really latched onto it.  They’ve mastered the dozen advanced designs our team prepared, so today I brought in my old set of tangrams and deck of tangram design cards.  I introduced it during indoor recess, starting with three boys who were really interested, but building up to six kids after others saw that we were having a lot of fun.  I explained that the goal is to be the first person to make the design on each card and (here I may have stretched the truth a bit) that I was a champion at tangrams in middle school.  (There was no official tournament, but I did play a lot against my friends and I usually won.)

Of course since 1) I’ve had a lot more practice and 2) I’m an adult, I finished almost every figure first.  We had some good conversations though about the strategies I used and what was really tricky to figure out, even for me.  And I encouraged the kids to use my completed design as a template for making it with their pieces, since practicing putting figures together – even if you’re looking at the answer – is one of the best ways to get better an tangrams.  One of the boys is definitely starting to see the patterns in the pieces.  He finished the large arrow at the same time as me and exclaimed “that’s so easy!”  When I asked him what made it easy he said “it’s just a big triangle like this and a square.  It’s easy!”

I think I had more fun today than any other indoor recess – and the kids enjoyed it too!  I sent two of the boys home with their own set of paper tangrams and new figures to try out; several others asked if we could play this again during recess or academic choice.  I’m really happy to be sharing an activity I like so much with my students.

[Aside: I finished one figure particularly quickly and left it on the table while I went to help a student with the computer.  Coming back I heard one child ask “how is she so fast?!”  Another answered, very matter of fact, “She WAS a champion at it.”]

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