There are 2 recommended arrangements for ten frame counters: pairs and rows. There are advantages and disadvantages with both. Which one best used is up to the teacher or school. Parents are advised to go with the system your school uses. If students can cope with it, use both but don’t introduce them at the same time. Rather, teach one then, when established, introduce the other.

Pairs arrangement

red dom 7


  • The shape made with the counters appears to grow in size as the number gets larger. Compare 6 to 7 and it is visibly longer in length. This is less easily noticed with the rows arrangement as the length is already at its longest. It is only the bottom row that fills in. Many young children find this harder to identify.
  • It is easier to see addition facts that make up the number. E.g. 7=4+3
  • Odd and even are immediately identifiable.
  • The numbers that make the pair to ten are seen more easily. 6+_=10 the missing 4 can be seen even without the counters there.
  • Comparing numbers can be easier. compare 8 against 4 and the missing numbers (counters) can be seen quickly.

red dom 6

TF 8 4

Rows arrangement

p 7


  • The counters flow from left to right just like reading. When the top row is full then the next row is filled from left to right again.
  • While the addition facts to 10 are not always as easy to identify, doubles to 20 are easier. As the numbers are larger than 5 and double 5 is 10; it is easy to see the 5+3 doubled is 16 E.g. 8+8but it is important to note the arrangement of the answer is in the pairs arrangement. The advantage to child being able to immediately identify both arrangements has a great over a child who can identify only one arrangement.
  • comparing numbers is easy especially for numbers where both are greater than 5. It is less easy where one number is greater than 5 and the other less than 5.


p 7+5

p 9+2