If you teach math to early childhood students, it’s important to understand what a ten frame is. Ten frames are tools for teaching math and they help kids with developing number sense. This post will help you understand the benefits to ten frames and provide printable resources that you can use in your classroom or home right away.
Ten frames help with developing number sense. Number sense is having good intuition about numbers and their relationships. This develops gradually as children explore numbers and have experiences with them. Number sense is something that can’t necessarily be taught, but it can be caught or learned over time.
A fancy math term educators use is subitizing. Subitizing is being able to instantly tell you ‘how many’ something is without counting. For example, a child who can subitize can roll a dice and tell you what they rolled without counting every dot. This skill is developed over time, but practicing it through games or using ten frames is key and will help develop better number sense.
What is a Ten Frame?
Let’s start with the basics. What is a ten frame? A ten frame is a rectangle with ten equal spaces. It has five spaces on top and five on the bottom. You use counters or math manipulatives to represent numbers less than or equal to ten on the frame.
Why are Ten Frames Important?
Ten frames help kids develop number sense. It teaches them to subitize and is a precursor to addition.
They provide kids with a visual of numbers and give children experiences working with numbers. They aren’t simply just memorizing numbers or counting without meaning. It shows kids the value of numbers.
Ten frames help kids with composing and decomposing numbers. It’s also great for teaching addition and subtraction.
How Can I Use Ten Frames?
There are MANY ways to use ten frames. With young preschoolers, I like to make a big ten frame on the floor using tape. Then I put objects in the frame and practice counting and identifying the number of objects.
There are also a ton of free printables that use ten frames. At the bottom of this post, I’m sharing a PDF with games and activities all using ten frames.
How to Teach with Ten Frames
To use a ten frame, begin with showing your child a blank ten frame. Add one counter and then count together. Add two counters and then count together. Continue adding counters until you reach ten. Then take away the counters and count down.
Practice showing your student a ten frame with any amount of counters in it from 0-10 and have him identify the number. Then have your student add counters to the frame and identify the number.
Over time and with practice, your student will start to subitize, or recognize the number without counting.
Some teachers choose to arrange counters in order (called 5-wise or pair-wise) and others like using random placement. I recommend starting with arranging counters in order and then moving on to random order.
Another thing I recommend doing is asking your student questions. After they answer, ask them “why” they answered with that number. It gives you insight into how they are learning and how their number sense is developing.
I put together a packet of ten frame activities for you. There are blank ten frames, activities, puzzles, a game, and even practice with teen numbers.
You can download this free printable by clicking here —> 10 Frames Packet