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Using tens frames and counters across year groups

Tens frames provide a very clear representation of numbers up to 10. It cannot be overstated how important the sense of ‘ten-ness’ is for children and their future progress in maths. Once bonds to 10 are second-nature, the ground is laid for the understanding of addition and subtraction and the mental pictures needed for all kinds of mathematical thinking

Posted on Tuesday 15th September 2020

Fill a tens frame with two-colour counters and simply turn them over one at a time to demonstrate all the ways to make 10. Verbalise the number sentences together as children make them.

Find more suggestions in our Ten Frames activity guide here.

Download activity cards

Two-colour counters are such a useful manipulative, and a bit thicker than ordinary counters, so especially good for smaller hands. They can be used in a variety of ways.

We have designed eight activity cards for children. They are free to download and can be used independently. Please print and laminate them for extended use.

Download activity cards

However, tens frames are not only useful for the youngest children; the DfE maths guidance (2020) shows how they can be used along with place value counters in older year groups too to give a concrete and visual representation of much higher numbers to the power of 10.

Here are a few more suggested uses for tens frames and/or counters across year groups.

Copy me!

The teacher or a child places a selection of counters on a tens frame and shows it to the group for 5-10 seconds, then hides it.

The group must remember the picture and repeat the pattern on their own individual boards. This can be made more or less difficult by using one or two colours, by how the counters are spaced and by reducing or extending the time given to look.

Who managed to get an exact match?