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Lovin on Maths(Pt 2):Ten Frames Intro

Following the last post (Lovin on Maths), the next series of posts will cover some simple ways to both play with math and teach math. I am hoping people who haven’t discovered the joy of maths will find something to dig into. And, if you do already love math, I hope to provide language and games to play- to spread the love.

Ten is the beginning of it all- well, in our number system- it is the beginning of it all.

As you may or may not be well aware, we work in a Base 10 number system. We use ten different digits to represent numbers, and each position has its place value determined by powers of ten. Bases are actually a really fun thing to play with- but we won’t go there just yet. (We can work in Base 5, for example, where the number 123 would represent 38 in Base 10, 1 group of 5², 2 groups of 5¹, 3 groups of 5⁰.)

Let’s start with an agreement that 10 is a really valuable number to know, to understand, to mess around with, to be creative with.

The image above is a “Ten Frame”. If you are just learning to find joy in math or if you are teaching joy in math at any level, ten frames are a great place to start.

Ten Frame Introduction

If we look at any particular ten frame, there are so many ways to play with it. Here is the opening ten frame again:

What do you see?

You might see:

  • four dots
  • six spaces
  • one less than five
  • almost half of the ten frame filled up
  • four less than a full ten of spaces
  • six needed for a full ten dots

How about this one- what do you see?

Maybe you see:

  • Two less than ten
  • Six and two more
  • Two
  • Eight
  • (After mentally wiggling the two dots to the left) An easier eight to see
  • Almost ten

What do you see in this Ten Frame?


  • It could remind you of the first one we looked at (the one with four dots all on the left of the ten frame)- That’s REALLY GOOD to notice.
  • One less than the first ten frame- three in this one
  • One more space than the first ten frame we looked at- seven in this one
  • You may have an urge to “mentally wiggle” that bottom dot to the left, for more order- to more easily recognize your three, or your seven.
  • Not much of the ten frame filled up
  • Lots of space in the ten frame

How about this one?

  • Half filled up
  • Half empty
  • Five dots
  • Five spaces
  • An odd number (one doesn’t have a pair)
  • An urge to mentally wiggle the dots left for order and recognition
  • A comfort with the spaces on the left, finally

It’s not just me. These are kind of fun, right?

The beginning of understanding math is understanding ten- the elegance of ten, the fun of ten, the creativity of playing with ten.

This comfort with ten- fun with ten- will take you far. Let’s start with just getting really good at seeing ten, knowing ten, recognizing all of the fun parts of ten.

Next week’s post will work on teaching with Ten Frames. If you REALLY want to start teaching with them now- start with the basic set.

Linked here is the Set of Starting Basic Ten Frames.

If you just can’t get enough, linked here are a few More Ten Frames to be creative with.

Play, and we’ll talk again next week.

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