Tangrams were used in eastern Asia anciently. Their origin is not known but we used them in Kindergarten for a variety of objectives. I read a book to the students called Grandfather Tang. I think it is more fictional rather than historical but it introduces students to tangrams. It talks about a grandfather who tells a story to his granddaughter and uses tangrams to illustrate each animal in the story. Tangrams are a group of 7 shapes ( e.g. triangle,square and trapezoid.) when put together like a puzzle, form a square. I glued magnets to the back of a set of plastic tangrams and had my aide make each animal in the story so students could see how they could be manipulated.
Afterward I had students make tangram animal pictures from construction paper. First, they were given a set of plastic tangrams for practice. ( These can be purchased at a "teacher store" or other educational outlets.) I have a set of tangram animal outlines and each puzzle requires the creative use of all 7 tangram pieces to fill the animal outline. They are difficult and as I struggled when I modeled them, sometimes it would turn into a lesson on perseverance. An interesting thing that I learned, was that generally students who had an easy time with other "school" tasks, sometimes struggled with the tangram puzzles. Other students who had a different set of visual perception skills found the activity easier and were proud of their success. We don't often use these skills at this level in school. It helped me see who would get frustrated easily.
What I learned: There are lots of ways to find success. We just have to find what the student is good at.