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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Improving Additive Reasoning and Numeracy With 20 Frames

Clip art by Whimsy Clips
This fall, I shared with you 10 different ways I use 10 frames in the classroom.  Today I want to share with you 10 different ways I use 20 frames with students.  From helping kids identify teen numbers to working on addition and subtraction 20 frames are a very useful tool in the classroom.  Any set of 20 frames will work for these activities.  If you want the ones featured in this post, you can get them here. Most of these activities work well in whole group, small group or individual situations.  The visual model of the 20 frame can support kids who have a fragile understanding and lead to a conceptual model of numbers that they will take with them as they learn more mathematics.  The flexibility of the 20 frame makes differentiating these activities easy to do.  It might look like everyone is working on 20 frames, but the difficulty of what they are doing can range greatly.

20 Frame Flash

This is probably the simplest way to use a 20 frame but can really help build subitizing skills which is the ability to instantly recognize a quantity.  Having students that are confident with what number is displayed on a 20 frame without having to count each time makes the rest of these activities go much smoother!  All you need to do is flash the 20 frame at your students for 1-5 seconds and then put it back down.  When you first start doing this with students you may need to show it longer or give a second peek for some students.  As your students gain experience with this, it will get much quicker.  Make sure you give kids the chance to share with their classmates how they knew the quantity being shown.  This allows all students to hear other students strategies and gives them ideas for how to solve it on their own the next time.

Matching 20 Frames and Numerals

This can be great fun as a whole group activity but can also be played in partners or individually.  When playing with a whole group, pass out 20 frame and numeral cards to each kid until you run out and ask them to find the matching number or picture.  Have them stand shoulder to shoulder when ready and review all matches as a class.   Played as an individual or partner game I like to have students spread out all the 20 frame cards and then flip over one numeral card at a time until all matches are found.  

20 Frame Memory

Once your students get proficient with matching 20 frame and numeral cards, it can be a lot of fun (and learning!) to play memory with them.  Simply mix all of the 20 frame and numeral cards together, place upside down in an array and flip 2 over at a time until you get a match.  This makes a great math center and is also quite a popular game to take home to play with families since most folks are already familiar with the rules for memory.  I like to keep a few sets in zip top folders ready to go home with students who request them.

Sequential and Non Sequential Ordering

Being able to put numbers in order is an important skill and one that is easy to do but often overlooked.  Giving your students a chance to put numbers in order at this level will make it much easier to order numbers later when they are working with much larger numbers.  When I give sequential numbers to kids to order and they have finished I have them read them in order from smallest to largest and then from largest to smallest to me or to a classmate.  This gives them extra practice with the rote counting sequence both forward and backwards and allows them to practicing counting starting from a number other than 1.  You can use either 20 frame or numeral cards for this activity.  Some kids need the visual model of the 20 frame when they are fist starting with an activity like this.  

Roll and Build

If you have 20 sided dice, this is sure to be a class favorite.  There is something so engaging to young children about dice games and this is no exception.  If you do not have 20 sided dice or want kids to practice building a specific set of numbers on the 20 frame blank dice are an easy way to differentiate.  If you don't have blank dice or are looking for something very engaging, you can make an origami cube and use that for your blank dice.  All you need to do is roll the dice and fill in the number you rolled on a blank 20 frame.  

Odd and Even Sort

The concept of odd and even is important for kids to develop and it always seem like they need more exposure to it.  using the 20 frames for this sort is great because kids can see if each dot has a pair or if there is one left over.  This is great for a whole group activity where each kid has a card and you sort onto 2 sides of the room.  It also works well in a math station or for an individual activity.  It is simple as sorting into 2 piles.  Of course, I always follow up this sort with picking one or two cards from a pile and asking kids how they knew those numbers were even or how they knew they were odd.  

Flip and Fill

This game is a great one to use to check in with how kids are doing with 20 frames.  It is very similar to roll and build but this time they are using the numeral cards to flip over and fill in the 20 frame.  When you do it this way, you know students will be getting the numbers 11-20 (unless you decide to limit it further) and can really practice those teen numbers.  I like to laminate blank 20 frames and have kids flip over the numeral card and fill in the number on their 20 frame.  If the cards are laminated, they can use a dry erase marker for this which they love.  You will see some kids erase the dots each time while others quickly figure out that they only need to erase or add some each time as the numbers change.  

Close to 30

I love using this game with kids who are showing proficiency with adding single digit numbers and are ready to be introduced to the idea of adding larger numbers.  This game is great played in pairs and makes an excellent math center.  Each student flips over 2 cards and finds the sum.  Then they figure out how far away from 30 their answer is.  The person whose answer is closest to 30 wins both cards.  You can have kids make a simple record sheet to go along with this.  My students like to circle their answer when they win by being the closest one to 30.  I love how this is a gentle introduction to double digit addition and works on the concept of comparing numbers all in a game format.  

I love having 10 and 20 frames in the classroom and find that these cards, along with the cards in my place value deck are used in about 75% of the games and activities I do with my intervention students.  There is just something about the visual model combined with the flexibility of these cards that make them engaging and effective.

Looking for more?  Check out my complete set of 20 frame playing cards and activities! (THIS SET IS 50% OFF FOR THE FIRST 48 HOURS!)

What can you add?  How do you use 20 frames in your classroom?  Please respond in the comments below!


  1. These resources look great! I'm looking for similar resources (array or grouping cards) for students to use while building conceptual understanding of multiplication while building fact fluency. Do you have or know of any resources that may help?


    1. Hi Sharon!
      Check out this post:

  2. Love all these ideas, Tara.
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. I love the idea of teaching Sequential and Non Sequential Ordering and Odd and Even Sorting! My kid is also learning in these ways in Phoenix pre-k. He loves group activities and this way I think he is learning how to work in group. I am very much satisfied the way he getting knowledge in his preschool.