Tangram Challenges

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“I’m not great at Geometry and I have no spatial sense….”

You might think those words were muttered by a disgruntled, frustrated student this morning. In this case, though, it was me! I have said those words so many times over the course of my teaching career, and I don’t foresee my “disgruntled, frustrated” attitude ever changing! Because, you know what? I’m not great at Geometry AND I have no spatial sense! 🙂

So, as I settled into planning this lesson, I was kind of already in my defeatist mentality (not a great place to start, is it?). I knew I wanted them to explore some geometry concepts (shapes, diagonals, perpendicular bisectors, midpoints) and I knew that tangrams were a great way to do this, BUT I didn’t know how to guarantee their success with it. After all, it’s not like I could help them (because like I said, “I’m not great at Geometry and I have no spatial sense….” 🙂

So, I turned to TIPS Math for some help (they had a great lesson) and I thought about how I would like the lesson to occur. My questions included, “how can each student have success at this? how can they work independently and not get frustrated? how can I challenge students who find this easy”.

I ended up modifying the TIPS Math assignment slightly, adding a pep talk about working independently to challenge your brain (but allowing a “HINTS FROM A PEER” chance) and giving a lot of positive feedback.

It was great (I’m still smiling!) – the students really challenged themselves to work with the tangrams (they didn’t even want hints unless they were really, REALLY stuck!). As they solved the different challenges, they each felt their own personal sense of satisfaction.

In our reflection time, we talked about which of our brains had really big Geometry and Spatial Sense neurons and which of our brains had very small G & SS neurons. I put a dot on the board to show my neuron and one student commented, “I think that might even be too big….” I’d argue with him, but I was the only one who got the answer sheet out to give a hint to a student!

So, parents just a quick forewarning. The tangrams and the challenge sheets are coming home tonight. Hope your brain has more than a speck-sized neuron devoted to Geometry and Spatial Sense!


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