A ten frame is a grid 5×2 with counters placed on it showing the numbers 0-10.  There are two established ways of placing the counters on it, in pairs or rows. Students need to be able to instantly recognize a number from the ten frame pattern being shown to them briefly. This is called subitizing. These patterns on the ten frames establish the visual image of the numbers that are essential for a child’s understanding of number. Use either the pairs layout (red dots) or the rows layout (purple dots). Cards showing the numbers 0-10, and later 0-20 help students see a number and its relationship to other numbers. For instance the pairs layout shows 7 is odd, one more than 6 and 3 less than 10; the rows layout shows 7 as 2 more than 5 and 3 less than ten.

The use of ten frames help students with early addition and subtraction tables without the need for counting. To help students form numbers, use a blank ten frame and have students form the numbers with counters. Also use flash cards with the dots already printed on them to “flash” at them and have them call out the number shown.

These printed flash cards can be found in the Ten Frame Flash cards eBook with these patterns on them. Used daily with students instant recognition of the numbers without counting is established, initially to 10 then later 20. Use of the initial worksheet pages ( from the Ten Frames Worksheets eBook) helps establish the recognition and writing of all the numbers to 20. Playing the ten frame games (Ten Frames Games eBook) reinforce these numbers in a fun way.

red dom 7

p 7


Once students can instantly recognize numbers with no counting, teachers move onto the next step of using the 2 colored dot flash cards (found in the Ten Frames Flash Cards eBook). This card for 7  4+3 clearly shows that it is made up of 4 and 3. The related addition (3+4=7) and subtraction facts (7-3=4; 7-4=3) can also be established. Use can be extended to relating these cards to real life stories such as “4 boys and 3 girls, how many chidlren?” Have the students tell the stories about the cards. Use the worksheets to help guide you through this process. Identifying number fact families are essential for efficient memorization of addition and subtraction tables (number facts).

For more information on how to use ten frames watch our free 10 minute professional development clip here.