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Solving Tangram Puzzles: 20 Tips / Tricks / Strategies (For Beginners)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Chinese puzzle in hand

In the early 19th century, traders brought tangram puzzles to Europe and America via trade ships. The tangram puzzle was quite popular during this period and became even more popular after World War I.

Each tangram set comes with seven pieces known as tans; two small triangles, a medium triangle, a square, a parallelogram, and two large triangles, which you will use to form other objects. These can be a geometric shape such as a square or triangle or more representative, such as animals, objects, or people. There are a few things you can do to go through this process smoothly.

These pieces can be arranged in almost infinite ways and can be made into countless different shapes. In addition to being inexpensive to purchase, Tangram sets may be printed out or accessed virtually. Even though they seem simple, they will give your brain a good workout. Our tips will help you make the process simpler.

These are 20 tips, tricks, and strategies to solve Tangram Puzzles:

1. Choose a suitable workplace.

Pick a space where you won’t be distracted by other activities. You need to be in an environment where you can concentrate on how you will put the pieces together to form a new shape.

2. Use all seven pieces.

One of the most basic and essential rules of tangram is that you have to use all seven pieces, and none can overlap. If you complete a pattern with less than that, you’re doing it wrong. Try rotating and flipping the pieces to make sure all seven of them fit in your design.

3. Trace your solutions.

By tracing your solutions, you will remember what you have done and have a record of your work. Many people keep a puzzle log, where they write down important information about each solution.

4. Use each tan as measurement.

Count the number of pieces required to create different figures using tans as units of measurement. Though the rule refers to using all seven tans, you are free to manipulate it however you like.

5. Rotate or flip tans.

As you try to fill the silhouettes and outlines with your tans, you may stumble into a situation where the tans you have don’t seem to form the shape you want. You’ll need to use all of your spatial abilities to solve your puzzle. Try rotating, flipping, and sliding each tan. A little strategizing goes a long way, but remember that all pieces must be connected.

6. Find solutions online.

You can find many tangram silhouettes and outlines online, as well as solvers that show you where you should place your tans to form a particular image. This is an excellent resource for when you run out of ideas. Some shapes may look easy, but once you start trying to assemble them, your brain is going to be in for a good workout. That’s why tangram puzzles improve your visual and analytical skills.

7. Create basic shapes out of triangles.

A few geometric concepts come in handy if you understand them well—knowing that combining two triangles makes a square or a diamond. You can also make another parallelogram using the two small or the two large triangles. A triangle on top of a square forms a barn shape. You can connect the points of two triangles to make the shape of a bow. 

The puzzles will become easier to solve once you begin thinking in terms of triangles.

8. Trust the process.

When you try to solve more challenging tangram puzzles, you may get frustrated because you can’t see how the tans connect to form a specific shape. Don’t fret. You must trust your instincts and keep manipulating the figures in different combinations until you find the answer. It takes a lot of trial and error to master the skills tangrams require.

Trust and team work concept

9. Identify dangling pieces.

Dangling pieces are tans that are either exposed so that no other tan could take their place. They make it harder to fill some parts of a particular shape, such as the cat’s dangling tail.

10. Notice corners that stick out.

In addition, it’s a good idea to take note of any corner that sticks out from the figure. As an example, an exposed triangular edge would prevent the square from fitting in that location.

11. The most difficult patterns to solve are those that have regular edges and no corners.

A puzzle with regular edges, without any corners or edges exposed, is challenging to solve. Convex polygons, for example, are notoriously tricky to solve. Probably one of the most complicated problems is forming a perfect square. Tangrams are sold pre-assembled as squares, so when players return the tiles to the box, they will have to deal with that challenge. 

12. Symbolic figures are easier.

Representational figures, such as animals and buildings, are usually more manageable since they have more jutting parts that act as ears, legs, and chimneys. By building these figures, you will be working your geometric imagination, which can sense geometrical shapes, size, and position.

13. Focus on the solution.

Researchers have proven that the brain cannot develop solutions if you are only focused on the problem. When you dwell on the issue, you feed negativity to your brain, which triggers negative emotions. These emotions stand in the way of finding a solution.

14. Have a positive mindset.

To stimulate your creativity, you need an open mind. This can help spark ideas and lead to solutions. It is often your crazy ideas that trigger other, more viable solutions, so do not ridicule yourself if you come up with what seem to be “stupid solutions.”

15. Simplify things.

People tend to overcomplicate things! You might find it easier if you generalize your problem. Removing all the details and getting back to the basics is the best strategy. Think of straightforward, apparent solutions. Often, it is the simplest things that are the most effective.

16. Have an end-plan.

After you finish your puzzle, what will you do with it? Deconstructing the puzzle and putting it back in its box requires little planning, but it can also discourage you from starting in the first place. It’s a good idea to plan to display the shapes you make with tans for a few days so that you don’t find it pointless to do them.

17. Don’t give up.

Take a break if you’re tired, bored, or stuck on your tangram. You should have fun solving your puzzle because it’s hard to keep your interest in one problem for too long. You may be able to see things that you missed if you take a second look at them later on.

18. Pay close attention to the shape.

Study the silhouette well before you start rearranging your tans to avoid frustration. It can be hard to tell which tans go together, and sometimes it will appear as if they are placed correctly, but they are not.

square tangram puzzle

19. Start with the pieces you can quickly identify.

If you see a triangle-shaped area on the outline you are trying to assemble; you know right away that you can put one of your triangles there. By doing this, you will save time and can focus only on the most challenging parts of the shape.

20. Have fun.

The most crucial rule is always to have fun. Even if you cannot complete the puzzle, you will still reap many benefits from it. The best strategy is to take the challenges lightly. 

Last word

Tangram puzzles work your problem-solving skills and geometrical concepts. They are often utilized in math lessons because the tans can teach the relationships between different basic shapes. Through various exercises, tangram pieces can teach symmetry, congruence, similarity, and even fractions. 

By solving these puzzles, you learn mathematical concepts and passively develop the problem-solving skills necessary to effortlessly figure out the puzzles.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.