Tangrams, meaning “seven boards of skill,” is an ancient dissection puzzle (or transformation puzzle) that originated in China. Its seven shapes can be arranged in over 5,900 configurations. For children (and adults) of all ages, this puzzle offers the challenge of creating a geometric shape(s) by arranging and utilizing all seven pieces. Some educational and intellectual challenges revolve around: geometric principles and properties (congruency, symmetry, area, perimeter, geometric shapes), math vocabulary, visual- spatial stimulation, and logic skills.
To begin our process, we found the generic shapes of tangrams online and began playing with the scope and size of the individual pieces by creating laser cut cardboard pieces. Then, we laser cut the proportional seven pieces. We glued four layers together to give them some tangible heft, making them easier to manipulate (i.e., rotate). We then affixed them to the connector pieces which were created on the laser cutter as well. Although we decided to make the pieces large, we purposefully chose to use different colored acrylics to add a bit of challenge to the puzzle. By not making them all the same color, users have to use their visual-spatial skills to envision a total geometric shape versus seven separate ones.
With SLATE’s library of tangram images, the puzzles can increase in difficulty, tracking the students’ progress. Users will embark on a discovery process by matching the tangram pieces to the shadowed image displayed on the SLATE. Once the pieces are assembled correctly, the image will blink (and a sound could be played). The SLATE board allows for instantaneous feedback. If a user does not assemble the pieces correctly, s/he will not see a blinking image. If needed, there could be a function that allows the SLATE board to give feedback with each piece placed. The images then can be SAVED for further review/use.
HELP: Users can access the HELP button, and with a slight turn of the wrist, they can get seven degrees of help as one of the seven shapes is revealed turn-by-turn. Sometimes all one needs is a slight hint, while sometimes one needs a step-by- step solution.
FREE PLAY: Users can use the FREE PLAY button to create their own unique puzzle and save it to the library for others to solve. “FLAMINGO” “BRIDGE” “FAIRY”
CHALLENGE: For further challenge, users can change the size of the puzzle, thereby altering it from the exact size of the tangram pieces. Therefore, a user’s spatial abilities will be further challenged by trying to match a smaller or larger version of the puzzle.
The verticality of the SLATE board allows for several affordances: 1.It’s vertical surface provides an easel-like surface on which kids can experiment. They can step back and assess their work, all without losing perspective on this visual-spatial puzzle. 2.Ideal for small group work, the SLATE surface invites creative collaboration for solving tangram puzzles. Many children can gather around the board without altering their access to the images portrayed. Additionally, they can further their “math speak” by having to explain to one another their strategies and solutions.
Extensions: 1.For inspiration, the SLATE board could display a “real” image from the real world which the user could then try to replicate or symbolize with the seven tangram pieces. What would your version of a sleeping dog look like? 2.The SLATE board could display a background image to inspire a user’s creativity. For instance, stars could appear prompting a user to create a spaceship, an alien, or a cosmic body of some sort. 3.For an additional challenge, a time element could be added. Users could set a finite amount of time within which a puzzle would have to be solved. A digital display could provide the countdown. 4.Sound could be added to alert the user to a correct/incorrect answer, as well as add to the creativity of the new puzzle.