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  • Writer's pictureLara

All About 10 Frames

Updated: Apr 6

What is a 10-Frame

A ten frame is a math tool that helps students develop anchors to 5 and 10. It has 10 squares total in 2 rows with 5 in each row arranged in an array. You can use them horizontally or vertically. I have seen them more commonly used horizontally though. Students can visually see numbers represented as dots most commonly, or they can use it to organize their counts.

Bonus! You can easily make one by making a table with two rows of five.

10 Frames can be used for subitizing, organizing counts, math centers, and more! 

5 and 10 As Reference Points

Using an anchor is a reasoning strategy that helps build number sense and basic facts. 

A huge benefit of using a 10 frame is it uses 10 which is big in our number system, and breaking the 10 into two 5s helps build relationships between 5, 10, and their connection to other numbers.   

Using 5 and 10 helps kids think about finding a 5 or 10 in problems as 5 and 10 and some more. For example, 7 + 6 could also be seen as 5 + 3 and 5 + 1, from there a student could add the two 5s to make a 10 and then 4 from the 5 and one, or see 7 + 3 + 3 breaking the 6 to make 10 and 3 more.

Using 10 Frames in Class

For students who are just learning to count, it can be helpful to start with a 5 frame, then 10 frame, then 2 ten frames as they become more familiar with 10 frames. A 5 frame is accessible for students just learning to count and a 20 frame is helpful to illustrate the idea that teen numbers can also be seen as a group of tens and some ones.  

After students have used 5 frames and move on to 10 frames it is useful to show them to fill up the top row before adding others to reinforce 5 as an anchor, seeing a number like 8 as 5, and some more.  

You may see a variety of different counting behaviors when using a 10-frame. Some students will need to count each item as they place it on the frame, some might be able to build by filling up the five and counting on, others might just “know” what 7 looks like on a ten frame and be able to show you a variety of numbers on a ten frame without counting. Additionally when changing numbers, like making 8 then making 5, some students will completely clear their frame to start from one, while others will remove 3 by counting or knowing what 5 looks like on the 10 frame and that 5 is less than 8 so some counters need to be removed.

With continued practice, students will gravitate towards more efficient strategies, but shouldn't feel pressured to choose one strategy over another,  you can show other strategies but emphasize the one that makes sense for them is the one they should use. 

When using 10 frames you can ask questions like, how many more do you need to make ____,  how many squares are empty/full etc. 

This work can be very helpful when it comes to two-digit numbers and beyond. For example, if adding 68 + 5, students could count on, or make a new ten recognizing that 8 is 2 way from the next ten so you can decompose the 5 into 2 and 3 to make 70 + 3 = 73. 

10 Frame Center and Activity Ideas

Any 10 Frame Math Center or Activity can be switched out for different manipulatives for a fun refresh! 

Warm Ups- Quick Images

Quick Images is a number sense routine where you show students an image of a 5, 10, or 20 Frame in this case, quickly so they don’t have time to count and have to begin to subitize and go beyond counting by ones.

Using incomplete 10 frames is a visual way for students to start to make ten by filling the 10 frames mentally and counting the extras.

Hands-On Center Ideas

In Pick, Build, and Cover your students pick a numeral or 20-frame card, create that number on their 5, 10 or 20 Frame and cover the number they made on their mat.

Spin and Build is similar, instead of picking, you spin a number and create the matching number on your mat. This game has an optional recording sheet so students can sneak in some number writing practice in this game!

Roll and Write 10 Frames is a twist on a classic roll and write where students will roll a 5, 10, or 20 frame die and write the number they rolled. 

For more ideas check out these 10 Ten Frame Center and Activity Ideas.

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