Tangram Puzzles Review

Posted by Amy Solomon on July 12th, 2011
iPad App - Designed for iPad

Tangram Puzzles is a wonderfully creative and fun educational iPad app. This is a nice companion to the related app by the same developers, MosaicHD. Instead of creating patterns with the use of small colored pegs like in MosaicHD, here the player uses different shapes together to create larger images.

Based on the classic Chinese puzzle game of Tangram, this app uses basic geometrical shapes together to create interesting images, The original Tangram puzzle consisted of seven shapes that together could be fitted side-by-side to create such shapes as a square, triangle, rectangle, as well as objects like a house, boat, or bird. I like that this app contains not only the various triangles, small squares, and parallelogram that were included in the original seven shapes but also includes circles and half-circles.

The interface is very easy to use here, with options including choosing a template, looking at completed work in the gallery, or creating one’s own design free-hand. The templates consist of 18 images that can be copied, ranging from simple to complex. I appreciate the selection offered a great deal as there is a lot to choose from with some very interesting images included such as Clown or Bear in Snowy Forest, as well as some abstract choices like the very ornate Ornament2, giving the player some nice ideas to create their own patterns.

Once the template is chosen, you will have the option to turn on "Help," creating an outline over the template where the pieces fit. It is nice that this option is included, as my son needs this help here as well as in MosaicHD to be successful, but older children and adults may want to tackle these patterns solely by looking at the small reference picture included. The right side of the screen consists of a vertical scroll bar of the shapes to be used in this pattern; tap and drag the chosen piece to where it belongs in the larger image.

It is nice that each shape has a number showing how many pieces of this specific shape are needed to be filled in, counting each piece as it is used being very helpful, especially when the “Help” is off. Like MosaicHD, the templates are based on a grid and while using the Help, the transparent shapes to be filled in do not fully cover up the grid below, allowing the player to see how the various squares of the grid fit into these various shapes to be used, conveying the geometry taught by Tangrams nicely.

The Gallery contains both past finished work as well as the chance to add personal patterns to a public gallery for other app users to peruse, and I really enjoyed looking at other people’s work. One can also share personal patterns by email or Facebook as well.

Freehand gives the player the option of creating his very own patterns. The vertical scroll bar to the right of the screen is filled with every shape found among these templates, and because flipping or rotating these shapes is not possible here, each shape is presented in every possible rotated or mirrored configuration. Ten color choices are available as well, creating complete personalization of any image one can create with the shapes that are offered.

MosaicHD is a favorite app of my son, as he is captivated by creating pictures based on the templates, as well as creating his own images free-hand. Tangrams is equally creative and fun. The music used here is very well done, hypnotic, and relaxing and very pleasant to listen to as one creates an involved pattern. I like that the music volume levels can be changed independently of the other sound effects, specifically the cheering one hears when a template is filled in, as this may be distracting or encouraging - depending on the player.

The use of tangrams with children has long been thought of as a great way to teach geography and math. Younger children will enjoy exploring shapes and colors as they can easily fill in the templates with the “help” feature, encouraging the use of fine motor skills and imagination along the way. I love the creative template choices available, but it would be nice if the classic seven piece tangrams which create the basic square, triangle, or other shapes were also included to help teach the fundamentals of this classic puzzle.

My son owns a few tangram sets himself, and not all of them work well. Many times the pieces slide around the cards he is working from - very frustrating. Other times, pieces are added to the cutouts of a wood puzzle template. This works well, but the images tend to be simplistic. I really like the ease of use and different levels of details involved in this application. It is always an added bonus to have no pieces to lose or to store when game play is over.

I think both Tangram Puzzles as well as Mosaic HD are good choices for families, as children of all ages as well as adults will also enjoy these apps a great deal.

iPad Screenshots

(click to enlarge)

Mini-U: Tangrams screenshot 1 Mini-U: Tangrams screenshot 2 Mini-U: Tangrams screenshot 3 Mini-U: Tangrams screenshot 4 Mini-U: Tangrams screenshot 5
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