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Storytelling and mathematics merge when students discover that by arranging and rearranging a set of seven geometric tiles they can create images of people, animals, boats, and buildings. Combining their images with their classmates’ inspires storytelling!
Introduce the lesson by discussing the role storytelling plays in many cultures. Then share the Chinese legend of the tangram or read the class Ann Tompert’s book, “Grandfather Tang’s Story.” Although the true history of the tangram is unknown, several Chinese legends claim that it was discovered when a wise man accidentally dropped a beautiful tile that shattered into seven geometric pieces. As he attempted to repair the tile he found that he could make many different shapes with the pieces and each reminded him of a story.
Give each student a square of cardboard. Show them a diagram like the one included here demonstrating how the square can be divided into seven separate geometric figures. Have students use rulers and scissors to separate their squares into similar pieces.
Demonstrate how pieces can be arranged to form various figures. One online resource for images is the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at www.cimt.plymouth.ac.uk/resources/puzzles/tangrams/tangsol3.htm.
Allow time for students to experiment with their tangram pieces. Invite each student to trace a favorite figure onto plain white paper and color it using Crayola® colored pencils, crayons, markers and/or other materials to more clearly define the image. Encourage them to add textures and specific details such as feathers or facial features.
Invite students to join several other classmates to create stories integrating all their images. Remind them that every story needs a beginning where a problem is established, a series of events or the rising action, and a climax followed by a resolution of the problem. Once they have developed a story, ask them to write it down and display the story and images in the classroom or a nearby hallway where everyone can enjoy them.
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