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Tangram Problem First Week

A hands-on problem that reviews the basic operations with fractions.

Operations with
Given that the total area of the fractions
tangram is 1, students will determine Problem Solving
what fraction of the whole each of Connecting
the 7 smaller pieces is. Then, they use Communicating
these fraction values to review basic
operations of fractions.

Copy of tangram diagram
A few pair of scissors for students
who want to cut up their tangram.

A history of Tangrams can be found

Given that the total area of the tangram is 1, what is the area of each of
the 7 smaller pieces?

Distribute a copy of the above diagram to each student and give them a
few minutes to think about the question. Circulate the room and see what
If your school has a class set of types of strategies students are using.
tangrams, students would benefit
by having the pieces to move Have students share their strategies for calculating the area of each small
around. Alternatively, students
could cut out the pieces if this
helps them decide how the shapes
relate. The answers are:
 Each large triangle = ¼
 Each small triangle = 1/16
 The medium triangle = 1/8
 The square = 1/8
 The parallelogram = 1/8

What is the area (as a fraction) of the small triangle and the
As students share their methods
for answering these questions,
parallelogram together?
1 1
you may need to reinforce the This will bring out the idea of adding fractions (i.e. 16
+ 8)
rules for adding, subtracting,
multiplying and dividing fractions
by doing a few more examples.
It is important to note that it’s not What is the area (as a fraction) of the two small triangles and one large
necessary to go over multi-step
order of operations questions. The 1 1
goal of this activity is for students This will bring out multiplication and addition of fractions (i.e.2x (16) + 4)
to be able to perform the basic
fraction operations needed in
analytic geometry when working
with fractional slopes and/or y- What is the area (as a fraction) of the large triangle minus a small
intercepts. triangle?
1 1
This will bring out subtraction of fractions (i.e. 4
- 16

Kids will probably be inclined to How many small triangles fit into one large triangle? Write the
just cut out triangles and count
mathematical calculation you would do to answer this question.
the number of small triangles that
fit. By having them write out
1 1
(4) This will bring out division of fractions (i.e. ( ) ÷ ( ) or
4 16 1 )
1 1 (16)
(4) ÷ (16) or 1 you
can review the division of fraction
For the following set of questions, each student needs to have their
tangram pieces cut out.
By tracing pieces, create a shape that has the area:
(i) 𝟖
Ask for a student to explain their thinking. They may say something like: “I
Students cannot borrow pieces used a medium square, a triangle and a parallelogram because each of
from other groups. For example, them are 1/8 and there are 3 of them, so the total is 3/8.” Another
they can’t borrow a large triangle
student may say: “I used a large triangle and square because the large
from another group to combine it
with their 2 large triangles for a
triangle is ¼ and that’s the same as 2/8 and the square is 1/8, so the total
3 is 3/8.”
total area of . Multiple answers
may be possible for each of these
drawing questions. (ii) 𝟒
Ask for a student to explain their thinking. They may say something like: “I
Encourage students to venture
know the entire square is one whole, so to make ¾ I need to remove ¼, so
away from strictly using addition.
Challenge them to use subtraction I removed a large triangle and used all the remaining pieces.”
and multiplication too.
(iii) 𝟑𝟐
Construction of (iii) may prove
challenging as students will need Ask for a student to explain their thinking. They may say something like: “I
to recognize that one of the 1 1 3
know the small triangle is so half of a small triangle is . To make , I
standard shapes (small triangle) 16 32 32
will need to be cut in half. The add one small triangle to a half of a small triangle.” Another possible
idea that halving a fraction solution would be a square minus half of a small triangle.
doubles the denominator could be
drawn out here.
This activity has been structured in such a way that the consolidation is a
summary of the big ideas covered throughout.

Possible big ideas for the day:

Basic operations with fractions
 Understanding that in some situations, more than one answer is
possible. A big idea for this course is multiple representations,
and this is a nice, simple activity to get them thinking that
sometimes more than one answer is possible (eg. when they
represented 3/8 in a variety of ways).
 If kids are working in pairs or small groups, this is a good activity
to practice their communication of math skills (“math talk”).
 When you halve a fraction you double the denominator.

Extension to link the fraction ideas to proportional reasoning.

The tangram pieces represent a band and their team:

Large triangles – the band
Medium triangle – publicist
Square – manager
Parallelogram – road crew
Small triangles – bus driver and personal chef

a) Last year the band’s tour made $20 000 000. How much did each of
the following earn?
i. the band
ii. the manager
iii. the bus driver

b) This year, each member of the road crew earned $126 000. There
are 22 people on the road crew. How much did the tour make?

Curriculum Connections:
NSA2.01 simplify numerical expressions involving integers and rational numbers, with and without the use
of technology;*
Mathematical Problem Solving, Reasoning and Proving, Reflecting, Selecting Tools and Computational Strategies,
Processes: Connecting, Representing, Communicating