There is compelling evidence (Reynolds, 1992 and Sfard, 1994) that imagery plays a significant role in mathematical reasoning and that mathematicians use imagery in powerful ways (Hadamard, 1949; Nunokawa, 1994; Sfard, 1994). Mathematics is not just a subject of logic and reasoning, but it is one that is laden with imagery.

Doing activities such involving **tangrams** (and other similar manipulatives such as pentominoes, dot cards, etc.) gives students a chance to develop their spatial sense in mathematics.

This past Wednesday the students in all of my math classes at Charlie Lake School did tangram art. I provided students with a set of tangrams die-cut from construction paper along with patterns for creating a variety of shapes. Over the years I have collected a variety of tangram patterns in books, but these days many patterns are readily available on the Internet. Put together on the hall bulletin board, the students’ tangram pictures make a delightful display.

When I have enough time, I prefer to have students (especially older ones – maybe not my grade 2’s) **cut their own sets of tangrams** from 10 cm squares of construction paper, but as my classes run on a fairly tight schedule on Wednesdays, I went with the pre-cut sets. (Download instructions for cutting a set of tangrams from a square here.)

I have found it interesting to observe that some students who struggle with symbolic notation in math “shine” when it comes to visual/spatial activities. I have also observed the reverse to be true: students who easily manipulate numbers cannot always move things in space so easily.

Although students sometimes perceive such as activities as “art” or a day away from doing “real math”, **these kinds of activities actually build their ability to use imagery, thus building their math sense.**

I encourage you to use some visual spatial activities with your students – of any age and grade level!

Mathematically yours,

Carollee

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