Games for hands and minds
Set of ten ivory mathematical puzzles in a black lacquer box, made in China, 1800s
What pleasure do you get from puzzles? While we do not know who owned this particular set, puzzles like these have intrigued both adults and children for over 200 years.
Whether you find them fun or sometimes frustrating, puzzles are valuable tools to train the mind in creative and logical thinking. They can also pose profound problems in mathematics. Changes in a shape’s position or appearance are explored by mathematical disciplines such as geometry and topology.
As trade opened up between China and Europe in the early 1800s, items such as these were brought back as gifts and souvenirs from Canton, China.
Tangrams were the world’s first puzzle craze – they became a sensation when introduced to Europe around 1817, much like the Rubik’s cube fad of the 1980s.
Tangrams are made up of several pieces (known as ‘tans’) that form a square. These pieces can be reassembled to make different shapes, according to problems posed by a picture book.
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