Saturday, October 11, 2014

10 Ways to use 10 Frames

Clip art by Whimsy Clips
My students are so engaged by the changing of the seasons and learning with a theme that I try to incorporate the seasons into what we do each day.  Because some members of our school community are not really into celebrating holidays in the classroom, I try to stick with lots of activities around the different seasons rather than specific holidays.  Fall is a great time to bring pumpkin, apples and leaves into the classroom.  When I saw this great set of 10 frame clip art by Graphics From the Pond I knew I wanted to make a new set of 10 frame cards.     
When I made a set of cards and spend time and money putting them on cardstock or laminating them, I want them to serve more than one purpose.  Ten frames (and twenty and five frames) have so many uses in the classroom, so I put together 10 ways to use these cards with kids.  These activities work great in Kindergarten and first grade classes and can be used for whole group, math centers or interventions.  With the mix of ten frame cards and numeral cards, it is easy to differentiate the activities to meet a diverse group of needs.   

10 Frame Flash

This makes an excellent whole group, small group or partner activity.  Simply flash the 10 frame at your students for 1-3 seconds and then ask them how many pumpkin seeds they saw and how they know they are right.  Read more about this here!

Matching Numerals and 10 Frames

As a whole group game this can be a lot of fun and a great way to work on numbers to 10!  Pass out 10 frames and numerals and ask kids to find their match.  You can then display them on a pocket chart and talk about what they see.  Kids can also do this on their own or with a partner.  Spread out all the numeral cards and make a pile of the 10 frame cards.  Have the student(s) pick a card from the 10 frame pile and find it’s match in the numeral pile.  You can also switch this around and spread out the 10 frame cards and have them pick a numeral card. 

10 Frame Memory

An easy twist on a classic game!  This game is great for kids to play with a partner or in a small group.  Simply mix all of the cards together, do a bit of shuffling and then arrange in a rectangular array.  If your students are not ready for all the 10 frames you can pick and choose.  Just make sure you have the corresponding numerals and 10 frames!
Note: Your students should be familiar with matching 10 frames before trying this activity!

Sequential and Non Sequential Ordering

These activities can be done as a large group by giving each kid a number (until you run out!) and having them get in order from least to greatest.  It also works great as an individual task or a partner activity.  Once kids have the cards in order, it is a great time for kids to practice counting forward and backwards.  Make sure your students get a chance to put numbers in order that are not sequential as well.  This activity can be done with just the numeral cards or with both the numeral and 10 frame cards together. 

Roll and Build

This is a simple and effective game! All you need is some blank 10 frames, 10 sided dice and pumpkin seeds.   If you don’t have pumpkin seeds bingo chips or other small markers will work just as well.  Students can play alone or with a partner.  Roll the die, and build that number on the ten frame.  This goes much faster if kids do not remove the bingo chips each time but just add more or take some off as they roll.  The pumpkin seeds I used got rinsed off and left out for a few hours on a towel to dry.  The kids had a lot of fun with them!

Odd and Even Sort

These cards are a great way to practice odd and even numbers.  Using the 10 frame cards is easier than just the numerals but when your students are ready go ahead and use them all!  Check out more ways to work on odd and even

Flip and Write Combinations of Ten

You can never have to many games for combinations of 10 and this is a great one requiring little teacher prep.  Give the student a stack of 10 frame cards or numeral cards if they are ready.  Have them flip over a card and write an equation showing how many seeds they see and how many more they need to make 10.  I usually have kids create their own record sheet for this activity on a piece of scrap paper.  It saves prep time and money!  You also might want to check out computer games for combinations of 10.

Make 10 Go Fish

This is one of my students’ favorite games for practicing combinations of 10.  Mix two sets of the ten frame cards together.  Shuffle and distribute 4-5 cards to each player.  Have each kid look for matches that make ten.  For example the 3 and the 7 are a match and the 6 and the 4 are another one. 
When all matches have been found in individual player’s hands, have them play go fish.  If I have the 2 card in my hand, I would ask another player, “do you have the 8 to go with my 2 to make 10?”  That player would respond “yes I do or no I don’t have the 8 to go with your 2 to make 10.  This language can be challenging to students when you first start but they will catch on quick!

Read more about how I use this game in the classroom and see some pictures of the game in action.

Pyramid 10

This is played like the classic solitaire game pyramid.  Mix two sets of ten frame cards together or use one set of ten frame cards and one set of numeral cards if your students are ready.  Students make a pyramid and find matches that make ten.  

Read more about how my students play pyramid and see more pictures!

Mystery Card (Addition and Subtraction)

This is a fun game and a nice challenge when students are ready.  This game must be played in groups of 3.  Two players choose a 10 frame card and place them on their foreheads.  The third player finds the sum of the two numbers on their foreheads and tells  what it is.  Then each of the players with cards on their heads looks at the other person’s card and tries to determine what card they have.  This lets one student practice adding 2 numbers under 10 while the other two students practice solving missing addend or subtraction problems.  The 10 frame visual really supports this learning. 

I like to change out the 10 frame playing cards with the seasons to keep things fresh for my students!  You can grab the pumpkin playing cards here or the spring seeds card set here.

Looking to extend these activities for older students or those who are ready for a challenge?  Check out my Double 10 Frames Activity Set!

If you are looking for more ways to get 10 frames into your classroom, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Using Ten Frames to Build Number Sense.  It is full of great ideas that are easy to implement in the classroom. 


  1. Wow, ten frames galore! I feel like I'm getting better at using the ten frames as a meaningful tool with my kiddos.

    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. There are so many great ideas here! Mystery Card sounds so fun, and has so much math packed into it. Thanks for sharing these great ideas, Tara!

  3. Thank you for sharing! My 2nd grade students were so engaged and want to keep playing.

  4. Wow! What awesome ideas to use with ten-frames! First, I want to say I love the idea of a pumpkin as a ten-frame. We get to have such very little fun with our students surrounded by seasons or holidays anymore. At least this is an easy way to tie a fall theme into many, many learning activities. You have so many to choose from here, I feel like you could use these ten-frames with almost any elementary level student. My third graders would especially like the "Go Fish" activity of making 10 and the "Pyramid" solitaire activity. Same skill just alone instead of in a group! Love it!

    1. Thanks for your lovely comment! My students love the pyramid game! I have now started playing lots of variations of it with different cards at different grade/ability levels.

  5. I never heard of 10 frames until I started homeschooling.... So far I've only used them for adding and subtracting -- love all your ideas!

    1. Thanks! They are one of the most powerful teaching tools for primary math!

    2. I use them for multiplication also. For example, for 9x4 I would have the child fill 4 ten frames with nine counters (or color in 9 spots if its a worksheet of ten frames). Then he/she would see that 9x4 is almost 10 x4, but with one missing from each group. The visual cue helps to see 9x4 as 40 minus 4.

  6. I am sure that some of these games will definitely make using ten frames fun and exciting for my students.