Ten Frame Activities: Supporting Early Numeracy Skills Using Ten Frames

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When it comes to building number sense in our young learners, it is about so much more than memorizing numbers. When we provide opportunities to explore number concepts in hands on and playful ways, our early learners are able to gain an more concrete understanding that builds a valuable foundation for continued math and numeracy learning.

The Ten-Frame is one incredibly valuable tool for hands on learning. It is simply a frame created with 10 spaces arranged in 2 rows of 5, but don’t let it’s simplicity take away from it’s effectiveness! There are so many ways this tool can be used and I wanted to share a few ideas here to inspire you to incorporate it into your playful learning environment too!

DIY Ten Frames

Before I dive into the activities though, here are some easy ideas for creating your own ten frames:

  • Write it/print it out on paper and laminate to keep it as a reusable resource.
  • Use painters tape to create the frame on a carpet, floor or desk.
  • Use painters tape on a baking sheet to make a magnetic ten frame!
  • Create a quick and easy Popsicle stick 10 frame using just 12 Popsicle sticks and a hot glue gun! (But I do recommend making more than one 😉)

Alright, let’s get right into all the many ways you can support your child’s math and numeracy learning using this simple and effective tool!

Counting

If your little ones are working on counting out numbers 1 – 10, the ten frame is so helpful! It is much easier for our little learners to count when items are arranged and lined up neatly, and the ten frame makes that happen automatically!

  • Give your little one number cards 1-10 and a small collection of loose parts such as buttons, pompoms, counting bears, etc. Have them choose a card and practice counting out each number of items using the loose parts
  • Provide number stickers or cut out some recycled cardboard pieces and write out the numbers 1-10 and have them practice arranging the numbers in order sequence, starting at the top left!

Skip Counting

Once your little one is counting with confidence, you can use the layout of the ten frame to support counting by 5’s and 10’s, or even use it sideways to help count by 2’s while still following proper left to right, top to bottom sequence as you would with reading.

Addition

If you are working on the concept of addition, the ten frame is awesome for that too! To make it more visual, just use 2 different coloured objects, and write out some simple math equations using markers in those colours. Then your child can count out the two sets of numbers, and then count on for the total!

Subtraction

Write out some simple subtraction equations on index cards, then have your child fill the ten frame with manipulatives to match the larger number, then take away the smaller number to find the answer!

Estimation/Subitizing

As your little ones become more familiar with using the ten frame and it’s layout, start to get them to guess how many spaces are filled without counting! Encourage them to talk about what they see as well, ie “I know there is 5 on the top and 1 on the bottom”

Comparing More/Less

You can either do this by using the top row and the bottom row, or you can use 2 ten frames side by side. Fill the frames with two different amounts and have your child look quickly and guess which has more without counting! Again, have them explain their thinking to you, ie, “They both have the top row filled, but this one has more on the bottom so it must be more.”

Another fun learning activity could be to give your little one a pile of manipulatives in 2 different shapes or colors. Get them to guess which group has more/less and then use the 10 frames to sort them to help discover the correct answer!

Coding

Translating or recreating a pattern/design from one ten frame to another is a great unplugged coding activity. For example copying the layout of colors, or arranging arrows in the same order/direction.


You can really use anything you have on hand, but if you wanted to invest in some specific math manipulatives, here are a few good examples!


If you’re looking for some great, ready to use resources for the classroom or learning at home, check out these other options from Learning Resources!

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