Free Printable Ten Frame & Games
Ten is a very important number.
Our entire number system is based on it. It’s like the foundation of numbers. You know how critical a good foundation is.
That’s why I LOVE Ten Frames, even though I absolutely love Saxon Math (which is pretty much the opposite of New Math) and these tend to be used by proponents of New Math. I actually love all math manipulatives, and when I first saw someone using ten frames several years ago I embraced them.
I use them right alongside all of my other math manipulatives.
So what is a ten frame?
What is a Ten Frame?
Friends. If you don’t currently use ten frames in your homeschool, your children are missing out.
In my opinion, it’s one of the most effective and simplest tools for teaching number sense.
Even preschoolers will get a lot out of them.
A ten frame is a long rectangle consisting of ten equally-sized boxes in a 2 x 5 array, hence the name ten frame. The photo to the right is a ten frame. Easy, peasy.
And it is magical, I tell ya!
For such a simple tool, these things will provide your children real, honest to goodness, deep and meaningful learning about numbers and the relationships between them.
If your kids can think about numbers in terms of composing and decomposing them, regrouping and borrowing, then learning about place value and multiplying/dividing very large numbers becomes simple and easy. Instead of having to memorize the horrible algorithm for long division, your kiddos will be able to easily decompose that huge number and divide it out easily and often in his head. Isn’t that incredible?
Ten Frame games make numbers manageable.
They provide a visual, increasing your child’s ability to subitize, or “see” numbers. They provide concrete understanding They give children the chance to work and play with numbers.
They turn drill into play. They provide conversations about numbers.
The ten frame games outlined below are fun.
I know I already said it, but I’ll say it again. Ten frames turn drill into play.
No worksheets. No boring drills.
We still complete our Saxon Math lessons every day, but I try to always start with a fun math game. My older kids usually enjoy playing these games with us, so these are whole-family learning activities.
We only play them for about ten minutes and then call it quits.
But that’s enough time to build the neural pathways required for a really excellent number sense.
How do Ten Frames increase number sense?
All of my kids enjoy math and frequently don’t want to stop when they’ve finished a lesson, so they’re way ahead of what would be considered grade level. Just last week, my 6-year-old brought me a long division lesson and asked for help.
Six years old is pretty young for such an involved algorithm. Plus, the algorithm involves keeping numbers in tidy columns, and she still hasn’t developed the necessary dexterity. What’s a mom to do?
Decompose the dividend, that’s what. I showed her how 642 is actually 600 + 40 + 2 and suddenly it was a piece of cake. She did it in her head and then proceeded to figure out the rest of the problems in that problem set mentally as well.
She is no stranger to number sense, which is why it was so easy for her. She already uses that strategy to add, subtract and multiply large numbers mentally.
I think the algorithm is also important, and I’ll for sure teach it to her. Later — when she can physically write tiny numbers in straight, tidy columns. But she’ll probably always use the workaround. Why wouldn’t you?
By no means do I advocate abandoning your tried and true math curriculum, but adding math games to increase number sense will only help. Ten frames (and this free printable) are a great place to start!
(Scroll all the way to the bottom and find the blue button to get your free printable ten frames and games.)
15 Games to Play with Free Printable Ten Frames
1. Ten Frame Flash
Briefly flash a ten frame (from the included printable). Have your child build the number you flashed on his own ten frame, or hold up that many fingers, or say the number or write the number, or all of the above.
2. Ten Frame Memory Match
Lay your ten frame cards out on the table, face down. Take turns turning over two cards per turn, trying to find 10-frame cards that add up to ten. For example, match a card with 6 dots with a card that contains 4 dots. Alternately, match the ten frame showing 6 to the card with the number 6. Pages 4-10 of the free printable ten frame includes plenty of cards so you can play it either way.
3. Ten Frame War
Give each child a stack of 11 ten frame cards (zero through ten) to turn face down (pages 4-10 of the free printable ten frame contains all the cards in 4 different colors) on the table in front of them, in a single stack. They each turn over the top card on their stack at once; the student with the highest card wins the round and takes all the cards. You might want to print multiples of each set of cards so the game lasts a little longer. The child with the most cards at the end of the game wins.
4. Ten Frame Scramble
Egg cartons make great ten frames. All you have to do is chop off the two sections on the end, and you’ve got an easy DIY Ten frame to play with. Number the bottoms of the egg cups, 1-10, and drop a small handful of counters in each cup. Let your child unscramble the cup so that you have 1 counter in the cup labeled 1, 2 counters in the cup labeled 2, etc…
5. Kinesthetic Ten Frames
Create a life-sized ten frame with a plastic tablecloth from the dollar store and a sharpie. Use colored paper plates as your counters to play the games listed here. Younger children could just place the counters, but you could have older children toss them from a certain point, trying to land his counter in a particular square.
6. Subitization Stomp
Whole-body, active learning is often a welcome change, especially if you have a kinesthetic learner. Use the life-sized ten frame you created in #5. Flash a ten frame card (use the single color ten frames, pages 4-9 of the printable) and have your kiddos stomp the pattern of the dots shown.
7. Ten Card Draw
Using pages 9 and 10 of the free ten frame printable, the numbered cards, place a single stack of cards on the table, face down. Draw a card and mark off the number on a 10 frame with a single color of counters. Then work out how many are needed to make 10 and write out the number sentence on a separate paper.
8. Ten Frame Addition
Roll a die. Add that number of counters to the squares, one counter per square (page 1 of the ten frame printable). Fill the remaining squares with counters of a different color. For example, if I roll a 3, I would place one green counter in each in 3 squares. I would then fill the remaining 7 squares with red counters and write the equation 3 + 7 = 10 below. You could play the same thing, but start with 10 counters, roll a die, and subtract the number that comes up.
9. Ten Frame More or Less
This is similar to ten frame flash (#1 above), but after flashing one of the ten frames from the printable, have your child respond with one more than the number on the card. This should be used when students have already worked with ten frames for awhile. When it’s easy for them to respond with plus one, have them respond with less one, then plus two, then plus ten, then plus five, then less two, less ten and less five. Or you could set up some other rule.
Another fun game for working on more and less is More or Less Fun (a mental math game).
10. M&M Math Mysteries
Once kids have mastered basic combinations of ten, it’s time to move on to higher order thinking — word problems. Use m&m’s and ten frames along with page 18 of the free ten frame printables to solve these mysteries. The mysteries aren’t actually solveable, but they are good practice for ten frames and your little ones will have fun trying to come up with endings for the stories.
11. Ten Frame Borrowing
This game uses page 11 of the free printable, plus counters in a single color and one ten-sided die. (You could use a six-sided die, but your child won’t get to use as large a range of numbers.)
First, have your child roll a die and complete the number sentence at the top with the rolled number. Next, have them build the rolled number in the second ten frame, so each ten frame uses a different color counter, like in the photo.
Explain that since adding 10 is so easy, we can make the problem easier by moving one counter, turning the 9 into a 10. Demonstrate how you can just move one of the bottom counters to the top frame to make it a 10.
Finally, complete the number sentence at the bottom of the page with the new structure. Talk about how you borrowed a counter from the bottom frame to turn the 9 in the top frame into a 10, but lessening the bottom number by 1.
Once they understand the process, have them try page 12, but warn them that if they roll a 1 on that page, they’ll have to roll again. No 1’s allowed! Page 13 is a worksheet they can use to record their number sentences, if you’d like. I just laminate pages 10 and 11 and have my kids play it a few times as part of morning time.
12. Which of these frames is not like the others?
This one is like Ten Frame flash, except that the counters aren’t all one color, so the patterns are a little more difficult. Flash the frames from pages 14-16 and have your kiddos try to recreate them on their own ten frames. Page 17 is full of tri-color ten frames for a bigger challenge.
13. Ten Frame Battleship
This is a two-player games, similar to battleship. Have players sit across from one another and open a large book between them to keep game boards private. Players each use a ten frame as a game board, and set it up however they like with counters. Players then take turns asking each other yes/no questions in order to try to discover the placement of the other players counters. To keep things simple, use a single color of counters. To make it more difficult use multiple colors.
14. Ten Frame Twenty One
Each player should have two, stacked ten frames arranged as a 4 x 5 array, so that twenty is easy to visualize. Players take turns rolling a die, then filling up squares with bears. Each turn, he has to shout out how many bears remain to 20. A player wins when he reaches 20 exactly. He can choose to add or subtract bears each turn, but must always yell out the number of bears to reach twenty. For example, on my first turn I roll a six, I fill six squares with bear counters and yell out 14. On my next turn, I roll a four, I place 4 bear counters and yell out 10. On my next turn, I roll a five, place 5 bear counters and yell out 5. On my next turn I roll a 4, so I place 4 bear counters and yell out 1. My next turn, I roll a 3. That’s too many, so I can choose to wait until my next turn, or I can decide to subtract 3 and yell out 4. Keep going until someone reaches twenty.
15. Tactile Ten Frame
Think of different items you could use as counters with your ten frames and play any of these games with those things. Ideas include: pom poms, beads, legos, spools of thread, stickers, small plastic animals, craft supplies, buttons, seeds, dice, game pieces, checkers, plastic spiders for Halloween, acorns in the fall, linking cubes, googly eyes, small candies (skittles, m&m’s, runts, foil-wrapped hearts for Valentine’s Day), flat marbles, etc…
You could draw a ten frame on a cookie sheet (dry erase markers will wash off with alcohol) and use magnets as counters. You could build a ten frame from craft sticks. You could tape one off on your floor or draw one on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. There are SO many creative ways to turn this activity tactile!
You’ll need counters for these printable ten frames and games
I absolutely adore all of the cutesy counters out there (for a couple of months we had rainbow-colored, plastic dinosaurs)! My kids do, too, and that’s the problem. After purchasing my third set in as many years, I figured out that the plainer and simpler they were, the less likely they were to be pilfered from the math manipulatives bin.
So now I just use plain, old, colored circles. This 5/8″ circle punch is the perfect size for these ten frames, and it makes the job easy. I don’t even laminate them. I just punch a zippered sandwich bag each of red, blue, green and yellow from colored cardstock, and when I need new ones I just punch a bunch more.
Who am I kidding? I make my kids punch them. Or rather, I let my kids punch them, because they do fight over the job. I also print rainbow bear counters, but even they don’t get pilfered, because they’re 2-D and they live in a bag in the manipulatives kit.
If you’d rather, though, there are all kinds of super cute counters for sale. Aren’t these two sets adorable? I can totally understand why mine always disappear.
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What are your favorite strategies for building number sense? Please share your ideas in the comments below!