Guided Math Lessons Using Tens Frames

Posted on January 30, 2010. Filed under: Differentiated Instruction, Graphic Organizers, Guided math | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Tens frames are a great tool for teaching guided math lessons.  The ten-frame provides a spatial representation that supports children’s visual understanding of  “five-referenced, ten-referenced, and doubles-referenced conceptions of numbers up to ten and the development of mental imagery for such numbers. It also supports development of partitions of ten.

Teachers should start off by using 5 frames to make sure that students learn the complements of 5. Then they can move on to using 10 frames.  These frames can be used to teach students at the concrete, pictorial and abstract level.  Use two color markers (if you don’t have these then just spray paint some lima beans so they are two-colored). See the ideas and links below for resources.  

Concrete Level Activities:  

1.  The markers are tossed and then placed on the board.  The children add up how many are red and how many are white.  They do this several times, noticing the different ways to name 10.

Ten Frame Board:

2.  A number is generated with dice, dominos or cards and then the children place that many markers on the board.  They have to tell how many more they would need to get to 10.

Pictorial Level

1.  The children actually play the above games, but color in where the markers would go.

2.  The children play games with ten frame flash cards.  This is a great way to illustrate FACT Families.  They get to SEE the FACT FAMILY in this way.

Abstract Level

1.  At the abstract level, students are bringing together their understandings and actually working with the numbers by writing out the number sentences.  At this level I have students make a book and write the number sentence under each representation.

2.  I also have the children match the picture of the ten frame with the correct number sentence.            

3.  Here are free downloadable worksheets using 10 frames for problem solving.       


Use these to teach complements of 20.  Also use these to teach doubles and double +1 facts.  So for instance, you have the students illustrate 3 +4 so that they can see this is a doubles +1 fact… have them do the +1 in a different color so it stands out.  You would illustrate this at the concrete level and then carry it over to a pictorial level by drawing it and finally by having the children find all the double +1 facts in a stack of flash cards.  You want them to easily recognize doubles +1 facts because it helps with their automaticity.  You can definitely lay the foundation by illustrating and practicing with the tens frames.  Great activity and song for teaching compensation with 9’s using a tens frame

More Ideas and Games:


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2 Responses to “Guided Math Lessons Using Tens Frames”

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Dr Nicki, great to read a blog from a like thinker. I have also blogged about ten frames, including a podcast episode on the topic.

I agree with you completely about the usefulness of ten frames for helping young children to really grasp a mental image of small numbers, and their relationships to other numbers, such as 4 being 6 less than 10, for example. With practice, students should be able to glance at a ten frame and instantly recognize a number. This ability is invaluable as young children start on the road to numeracy and math ability.

By the way, you might be interested in a set of ten frame worksheets we have on our site, which can be used for learning numbers up to 20.

~ Peter

Your site has so many great resources. I love the real connections to math.

Happy Mathing,
Dr. Nicki

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