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A Folktale of Tangrams

Once upon a time an emperor of China asked a glassmaker to make him a beautiful piece of glass shaped like a square. The glassmaker, named Mr. Tan, worked very hard and created a beautiful square piece of glass using all bright colors.

Mr. Tan wanted to deliver the glass to the emperor himself to insure a safe delivery.  Upon completion of the square, he started on his journey to the castle.  As he neared the castle, Mr. Tan got very excited and tripped. He dropped the piece of glass and it broke into 7 pieces!

Mr. Tan was very upset thinking the emperor would be angry with him.  As he contemplated about what to do, he noticed that the broken pieces of glass looking like different figures, called grams.  He decided to use these grams to tell stories to the emperor.

When Mr. Tan told his stories, emperor loved them, and named his figures, Tan Grams, meaning Mr. Tan’s pictures. This spread throughout the country and from them on all of China used the Tan Grams to tell stories.

Here is a story that Mr. Tan might have told the emperor about his journey to the castle and how “Tan Grams” originated. Remember that Mr. Tan is telling the story. I will pretend that I am Mr. Tan.

Honorable emperor, I was very pleased to be asked to make a piece of glass for you. I used many colors to make the glass beautiful. I knew I had to travel far, and I wanted to bring the glass to you so I could deliver it safely. This is my journey.

First, I hiked over two mountains.  (place two large triangles)

Next, I walked across a field. (push two triangles together)

In the middle of the field there was a huge boulder I needed to climb over. (add square)

I gently rested my glass on the ground and pushed over one large stone so that I could walk up over the boulder and one large stone so that I could walk back down carrying the glass.  I then walked through the rest of the field. (add small triangles to each side of the square)

At the edge of the field,  I climbed the hill- and trekked past the gemstone mine. (Add parallelogram and point to the diamond shape)

In the distance, I saw the castle (add triangle to top and make square)

Ask class,  “What shape did I make?”   -The square glass –our story is not finished.

I was so excited to see the castle, I did not pay attention to where I was and tripped and dropped the glass. It broke into these  seven pieces that I bring as a gift to you.  Can you make the square glass from these pieces?

(Push all pieces apart and ask students to remake the square shape using the story as a guide….