You've been framed! Taking a closer look at ten frames

Post date: Jan 6, 2016 2:17:50 PM

NB: This has been updated - see end of post

What is a ten frame?

A ten frame is a simple tool that helps children:

  • keep track of counting

  • see number relationships eg odd and even numbers, doubles, near-doubles, number bonds

  • understand and learn the number bonds of numbers to and above 10

  • develop their understanding of place value.

The ten frames can be five-wise (used horizontally) or pair wise (see picture opposite) which are used used vertically.

Each configuration has its merits:

  • The five wise configuration encourages links to five.

  • The pair wise configuration emphasises, the idea of doubles, and one more and one less than doubles and odd and even numbers.

They are very valuable tools which encourage children to visualise numbers and can be used from the infant classes right up to second class, or even older for some children. For exploring numbers up to five, a five frame could be used; however, it is perfectly acceptable to use a ten frame and limit your use to just the numbers up to five.

I have put together number of resources to help you get started with ten frames, which are all available FREE to download at the end of this post:

  • Five-wise ten-frame flash cards and blank templates, in both all red dots or green and yellow dots, to correspond to the very common base-ten blocks.

  • Pair-wise ten-frame flash cards and blank templates, again in both all red dots or green and yellow dots, to correspond to base-ten blocks. These ones are ideal to use to explore odd and even numbers, doubles and halves (only use even numbers) and near doubles (only use odd numbers).

In addition to this, I have some suggestions of great teaching ideas and videos to start you off:

For other, more specific teaching ideas:

Numbers 1-5, 6-10

Combining numbers <10, Number facts/bonds of and to 10

Teen Numbers, Bridging the 10

And finally....Don't forget to also check out my oral and mental maths board on Pinterest for more on ten frames and other related visual models.


To coincide with the publication of the Operation Maths programme I've also added, to the free downloads here below, both sets of five-wise ten frames, where the top row is filled first and then the lower row.

Five-frames and Ten Frames are used extensively throughout the Junior Infants to Second Class books and these extra frames are an ideal companion to the free five-frames and ten-frames that accompany the children's books and to the activities already listed in the Operation Maths Teachers Resource Books.

And even if your school has not adopted Operation Maths you can still use these resources with your classes. Also listed below are links to some great Ten-frame games and videos available online. Show them on your IWB and get the children to respond on mini-white boards!