Ten Frames Part 1: Number Sense

by C. Elkins, OK Math and Reading Lady

The focus in this post will be an introduction to ten frames and ways they can help your students gain number sense. Then stay tuned because ten frames can also be a great tool for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Subitizing: This is the ability to recognize an amount without physically counting. Looking at the picture of red counters: If the top row is full, does the student automatically know there are 5? Doing a Number Talk is a great way to practice subitizing using a ten frame:

  • Use your own or pre-made dot cards. Flash the card for 1-2 seconds. Observe students. Are any of them trying to point and count? Or do they seem to know right away? Here’s a great video I recommend: KG Number Talk with ten frames
  • Tell students to put their thumb in front of their chest (quietly) to signal they know how many there are.
  • Ask a few students to name the amount.
  • Then ask this very important question, “How did you know?”
  • For the top picture you might hope a child says, “I knew there were 5 because when the top row is full, there are 5.”
  • For the bottom picture, you might hope for these types of responses: “I saw 4 (making a square) and 1 more.” or “I saw 3 and 2 more.” or “I pictured the 2 at the bottom moving up to the top row and filling it up, which is 5.”

The idea is to keep building on this.

  • What if I showed 4 in the top row? Can the student rationalize that it was almost 5? Do they see 2 and 2?
  • What if I showed 5 in the top row and 1 in the bottom row? Can the student think “5 and 1 more is 6?”

Here are some resources you might like to help with subitizing using ten frames.

Number Bonds: Using ten frames to illustrate number bonds assists students with composing and decomposing numbers. Students then see that a number can be more than a counted amount or a digit on a jersey or phone number. Here is an example of number bonds for 6:

  • 6 is 5 and 1 (or 1 and 5).
  • 6 is 4 and 2 (or 2 and 4).
  • 6 is 6 and 0 (or 0 and 6).
  • 6 is 3 and 3.

Teaching strategies for number bonds using ten frames: Continue reading