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Ten frames

What are ten frames?

Most elementary classrooms are familiar with ten frames. A ten-frame is a graphic tool containing ten boxes pictured as two rows of five columns. Each box in the ten-frame can be filled with a counter or left blank to represent a number up to ten. A ten-frame is founded on the concept of benchmark numbers, five and ten. By arranging counters in different ways, students form mental images of numbers. The goal is for students to achieve automaticity as they recognize the number of counters without having to count them.

Why should I use ten frames?

Ten frames are an easy and cheap tool to implement into math instruction. Ten frames help students develop number sense using hands-on manipulatives that show numbers that are less than, equal to, or more than ten. The concept of ten lays the foundation of place value, and this skill is fundamental in fostering a solid understanding of number sense. Students must know what a number really consists of instead of solely identifying a number as a digit.

Ten frames help children organize numbers into workable chunks of five and ten. As dots are moved to build numbers, students can visualize smaller numbers inside larger numbers. This allows them to make connections with numbers and better manipulate and calculate numbers in their head. Once students master the ten-frame, they can move onto using a double ten-frame to add larger numbers. If a student adds 9 + 4 using a double ten-frame, they will quickly learn this calculation is the same as 10 + 3.