To teach addition facts with ten frames it is important that the students already have instant recognition of the patterns of counters on the ten frame. For instance they must be able to recognize this as 6: red dom 6

This is the “pairs arrangement” but the “rows arrangement” can be used also. It is even better if they can recognize both arrangements.

Once this is well established the students can be moved on to the 2 color ten frames. Look at this ten frame showing 7:  4+3

From this ten frame students can instantly see 4 + 3 = 7

But they can also see more. They can see that 3 + 4 = 7; 7 – 3 = 4; 7 – 4 = 3. They can also see 4 + __ = 7 and so on.

These are call fact families. Knowing fact families help students understand the relationship between one number and another. It reduces the number of facts or tables they need to memorize and help them with problem solving as the numbers are not remembered by rote but are remembered because the student can “see” it.

  1. Start by making these 2 color ten frames with counters and have your students tell you what they can see.
  2. Gently introduce mathematical language “four plus three” but only when the students are ready and it is age appropriate.
  3. Ask them to tell stories about what is shown on the ten frame. “There are 4 butterflies and 3more come and join them making 7 butterflies”
  4. Have the students show you a story you tell them using the ten 2 colored counters.
  5. Introduce take away stories.
  6. Change the stories slightly to increase complexity. “There are 4 cherries, how many more cherries are needed to make 7 cherries?” With practice students will begin to understand these are similar stories that have the same numbers in them.
  7. Once students are quick at using the ten frames and counters, introduce flash cards with the 2 colors on them. Flash the card and have your students tell or write (depending on age and ability of the students) the addition facts they can see.
  8. Flash the cards and have students write the fact families they can see.

Remember there should be no counting and no counting on fingers! It should all be done visually as students “know” what a number looks like and can recognize it instantly.

A full set of flash cards with all single “rows” and “pairs” arrangements and possible arrangements of 2 colored flash cards is available in our Ten Frame Flash Cards eBook.
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Also we have an eBook of Ten Frame Worksheets which has a large number of addition tables and fact families in it.
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