10 Engaging Ten Frame Activities For Little Learners

While it can be facile for a little learner to grasp 1+2 is 3. Nonetheless, opting for three objects and placing them in a place to count may ameliorate the learning experience. Ten frames ensure a similar learning style by making learners mark or put entities in a two-by-five frame to count later. 

While ten frames may be a riveting concept, blending it with some intriguing activities can engage the young pupils in a much more advantageous way! Accordingly, here we traverse through our picks of ten frame activities that not only ensure learning numbers but also amplify visual, motor, and kinesthetic abilities.  

Ten frames- The enticing antiquity

Numbers are as pivotal as alphabets for young students to learn various high-standard concepts later. That being the case, the conceptual side of math is crucial. Most of the traditional practicing techniques often focus on how to solve the question, and may not highlight the notion behind it. Comprehending the same, Vande Walle and Bobis (1988) came up with a ten-frame strategy of teaching to make sure the little ones are well versed with the numbers in the real sense.

Kim Beswick[1] made a study on how developing ten facts can help students. The result showed that there were indeed positive gains on students with the explicit teaching of ten facts. Further, it is outlined that these can assist children with difficulties in building math strategies also beyond counting. 

Using ten frame: Rewarding enough? 

So, you might be wondering why the number 10 and not any other number? Well, the thing here is that number 10 is the main block of our basic number system and young students who have an understanding of the number 10 (for example, we teach them about 10 fingers and 10 toes, and this way we give them a basic idea of number 10), can relate and use that same understanding to solve the problems of math. 

Why use ten frame?

There are many good reasons to use this tool that helps young students build their number sense. Here are some reasons:

  • Ten is a magical number, and we have a ten-based number system. Everything revolves around the number ten and helps students see numbers in the context often. 
  • When young learners are introduced to numbers, they learn and recite the number names. And ten frames do the same as the tool provides a visualization of numbers and shows their value.
  • They help students to have a strong foundation and a deeper knowledge about numbers than just memorizing.

Fun classroom ten frame activities

1. Ten Frame Flasher Activity

Ten frame activities are cool to make youngsters develop their ability to work with numbers in the context. To do this activity, you’ll need ten frames for each student, counters, or objects to place.

One student shows the ten-frame he has and shows a count of three(three counters placed on ten-frame), then hides it. Now other students have to place objects in the same position. The “flasher” (student) shows the ten frames again and checks each student’s ten frames. One point for each correct placement can be given, and at the end, a student with the highest score wins.

2. Place the Numbers 

Place the numbers

In the activity, each student from the class takes a turn and rolls a dice. The number that comes on the dice is the number which the students have to place counters onto the ten frames. Now the student needs to reckon the number of places are left which they’ll find out by the subtraction of that number from 10. This way, the students learn to count numbers and find the essence of various basic operations.

This activity is exciting and helps students develop their ability to count and place value. Further, the activity can be held by rolling the dice twice or employing more than one ten frame at a time. 

3. Guessing Activity

 Guessing Activity

To begin the activity, you need to have ten frames for each student and a large board to keep a barrier between two students (this is a pair activity). One student starts arranging some objects/counters on a ten frame. 

The other student has to ask questions(for example, “did you fill the top row?” or “is there one empty place in the bottom row?”), which can be replied as ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ 

The pupil has to guess the number the other one has placed from the answers he/she is giving. The student who guesses the right number in fewer questions wins. 

4. Candy hunt 

Candy hunt

This activity is a journey of ten frames that a pupil can traverse through to reach the end goal. To start with, the teacher creates a road map from a start and end line on a paper with say, 5 ten frames on the way. The student needs to address these ten frames to finish the journey and reach the end goal. This activity can be employed to more than one student at a time to compete and see who wins. Say, the five questions of ten frames are 1+3, 3+2. 5+3, 2+6, and 4+2. The students need to use ten frames to solve them one by one. The one who reaches the end goal wins the candy, thereby successfully hunting that candy. 

5. Let’s Make A Number

let's make a number

Making use of numbers and ensuring counting is often the crucial essence of the ten frame. There can be different ways to make the number 6—for example, 2+4=6 or 1+5=6 and so on. Try to do more experiments with multiple formations of making a number. 

Give students a number and ask them to make that number in different ways on a ten frame. Through this activity, students would engage themselves in comparing their formation with others. This activity makes them learn that there can be many ways to make a number.

6. Let’s Make Number Bonds

lets make number bonds

In the activity, give a number and ask students to fill ten frames. Students can get to know and understand the abstract presentation of the numbers as they discern them better by counting them. Later, the task can be complicated by assigning more than one number and asking them to make simple operations as well. For example- you can give 5 erasers and 3 pebbles. 

Mentors can ask questions like “how many pebbles and erasers do you have altogether?” or “How many more pebbles or erasers you can use to make it 10?”. Through these tricky questions, students will think harder to get to the solution.

7. Snack the Frame

snack frame

Incorporating food into the activity may ameliorate the motivations for the little ones.  To start with, the teacher creates a ten frame on a piece of paper and hands some cookies to the little learner. Now the mentor gives a question to solve. The students need to place the cookies on the frame to solve it. For every right answer, they are rewarded with the number of cookies as the answer. Say, the question is 3+6, the little pupil adding 9 cookies to the frame, gets the right answer and is rewarded with 9 cookies accordingly. 

8. Pattern Activity

pattern activity

Students need to identify the numbers that they are operating upon. For that reason, distinct manipulatives may be employed.  For instance, if two numbers are to be added, then two different reckoners are used- Say buttons, beads or candies. 

To start with, the students can start with two equal numbers. For instance, by adding 3+3, they can use three buttons and three beads. Later the sum can be complicated by asking unequal numbers or offering more than two numbers to calculate.  For example, 2+1+3 needs three distinctive manipulatives to create three patterns and add them. 

This activity ensures that the learners are clear about the different numbers in a ten frame and how to add more than 2 numbers.

9. Symmetrical Activity

symmetrical activity

To conduct the activity, you need to place two ten frames next to each other. This is to give them an idea of copying whatever they do on one frame; they also have to do the same on the other frame. At first, it may seem tough, yet they’ll grasp the idea over time. 

A simple way to do this activity (if you don’t have two frames for each student), then have a mirror and keep the ten frames next to the mirror. Students can check what the reflection of a ten frame looks like. This activity not only teaches the concept of ten frames but also symmetry. Kids will get to know the left and right direction which will help them know the use of mirrors.

10. The Carton Activity

The Carton Activity

Employing real-life entities into learning may make learners discern the pragmatic sense of these notions. This activity ensures the same by implementing an egg carton to work as a ten frame. 

 To start with, the teacher procures a set of UNO cards, an egg carton (with capacity of ten eggs), and beads.  Now, the student picks a couple of random cards from the pile. The little one needs to add them using a ten frame formed with egg cartons and beads.  For instance, if the two cards are 2+5, the pupils pick 2 beads and place them and then pick 5 beads and place them too. Now, they count the toilet beads (7). 

This activity brings out the children from the traditional practice with paper and pencil, thereby assigning kinesthetic learning as well. 


Ten frames may be an eminent pick for all the instructors to preach early math to little learners. Manipulatives can be really creative and will attract students’ attention, and that’s where the above-mentioned activities turn useful.  With no painful efforts or preparation, these activities can be employed any time effortlessly. Mull over the above picks to check which of these may turn engrossing for your little one. 


  1. Beswick, K. Developing ten facts with prep grade students: A teaching experiment.

Leave a Comment