How do you play Tangram?
Tangram is no ordinary puzzle. The placement of the ‘tans’ and the observation of the figures come together to confer an aura of enigma and magic to the game, giving the Tangram its own special place in the world of puzzles and riddles. The possibilities that it provides for our imagination are virtually infinite. Much like when we put together a collage, the individual pieces of a Tangram lose their identity and appear before our eyes, magically, as part of a new form.
The puzzle is made up of seven flat, geometric pieces resulting from the dissection of a square. Each one of these pieces is called a ‘tan’ (part, in Chinese). There are 2 large triangles, 1 medium-sized triangle, 2 small triangles, a square and a rhomboid.
How is it that the partition of a square in 7 parts – these 7 in particular – can yield such a vast array of fascinating, evocative figures? We have yet to come up with an answer, despite our search in specialized publications and web sites; perhaps the question would best be put to a mathematician.
The game of the arches could also be called the game of strokes. Each piece is a line that can make drawings in the air, i.e. three-dimensional drawings. Drawing lines in the air and marveling at the forms that are created, pushing the boundaries of balance, interpreting the unexpected abstract and figurative forms that emerge... this is what the game consists of.
Could these trunks have once belonged to a cherry tree, with its shimmering red leaves? Or to an elegant birch tree, nestled close to a mountain stream? In either case, happy little creatures would have been found skittering about under their branches, which would have undoubtedly provided shade for more than one weary, long-forgotten traveler.
The tightrope walker balances over the precipice, risking life and limb as he walks over the thinnest of threads. They are not actors; rather, they relive what is essentially their life away from the wire. We are all tightrope walkers, though some more than others. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all balanced on the edge. That is what they are trying to tell us.
What makes the Pentaminos fascinating is its initial simplicity, so different from the ennigmas and problems described below. Unlike a 1000-piece puzzle, which has a single solution, the Pentaminos, while consisting of only 12 pieces, has thousands of possible solutions.
Altogether there are twelve different Pentaminos, each designated by a different letter of the alphabet: (F, I, L, N, P, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z). Pentaminos obtained by joining others at their axis or by rotation are not considered to be ‘different’ Pentaminos.