Teaching Number Sense with 10 Simple Ten Frame Activities

When it comes to teaching number sense, ten frames are an important tool for students to learn how to use and apply. Incorporating ten frame activities into your number sense lesson plans is a great way to help students see, visualize, and represent numbers in multiple ways. Read on for 10 number sense activities and games using ten frames that you can use to help your students master this skill.

What is Number Sense?

Number sense is the ability to identify numbers and their values in multiple ways. Over time, students’ ability to recognize numbers in multiple ways can boost their mathematical comprehension. This helps them master skills such as mental math, place value, addition and subtraction, composing and decomposing numbers, and more. 

As teachers, it’s important to help support students when teaching number sense skills by giving them multiple opportunities to work with hands-on activities and visual aides. Using ten frames is one of the best ways to help students develop number sense skills. 

What is a Ten Frame?

A ten frame is a simple mathematical tool that allows your students to represent numbers in a variety of ways. A ten frame is a long rectangle that is divided into 10 equal parts. You can represent numbers on a ten frame by filling up the top row first and then the bottom row using counters or other math manipulatives. 

One of the best benefits of ten frames is that they provide a visual representation of a number and show its value in a way that students can understand. 

The number 10 is important because it is known as a “friendly” number. Using ten frames and the “friendly” number strategy to build number sense is a great way to help students work with larger numbers over time. This will support students as they build on their prior knowledge as skills progress and as they work with multi-digit numbers. This is especially true for 1st grade students and even students in 2nd grade. 

Ten frame student math journal activity

Teaching Number Sense Using Ten Frame Mats

Ten frame work mats are an essential tool to keep on hand for teaching number sense within 10 and beyond. You can use twenty frame work mats to explore numbers within 20 as your students progress. 

We want our students to be able to identify the numbers represented on a ten frame and understand the relationship that number has in various concepts. As this knowledge is developed over time, our students will be more equipped to perform mental math, place value, addition, subtraction, comparing and ordering numbers, and more. 

When to Use Ten Frame Mats

Ten frames are a great tool to use when teaching number sense all throughout the primary grades. In kindergarten and 1st grade, students can use ten frames to build basic number sense skills such as number recognition and number representation. 

They can also use ten frames to perform beginning addition and subtraction problems, compare numbers, order numbers, and understand number pairs to 5 and 10. These are all essential skills for establishing a strong number sense foundation for which more advanced skills will be built. 

Ten Frame Anchor Chart

When introducing ten frames and students are seeing this mathematical tool for the first time, start by creating a ten frame anchor chart together with your students. As you create this anchor chart together, students can create their own mini version in their interactive math notebook to keep for future reference and visual support. 

You can find the whole group and student math journal version in my Number Sense Activities for First Grade Guided Math Unit,

Ten frame anchor chart for teaching number sense

Ten Frame Activities and Games

After introducing ten frames and familiarizing your students with this tool, you can use ten frames and twenty frames to play games to help students develop number sense skills in the primary grades. 

These ten frame activities can be used during a class warm up, during a whole group mini lesson, small group teaching, or even during math centers as a partner game.

These activities and number sense games for 1st grade and 2nd grade use basic materials you already have on hand. Plus, they are super engaging and fun for students!

Build a Number

One of the best ways to help students build number sense skills is to work with numbers in a hands-on way. This game is perfect for that!

Materials needed:

  • A set of number cards for the teacher. 
  • A ten frame mat and manipulatives for each student. 

How to Play: 

The teacher will quickly flash a number card for students to see for about 2-3 seconds. The students will identify the number and build it using their manipulatives on their ten frame mat. 

Ten Frame Flash

This game is super versatile and can be used all year long with various numbers when teaching number sense. This is a great game to play for differentiation.

Materials needed:

  • A printable set of ten or twenty frame flash cards for the teacher (if you own my 1st Grade Number Sense Unit, these are included for you).
  • A ten or twenty frame mat and manipulatives for each student.

How to Play: 

The teacher quickly flashes a ten frame flash card for students to see for about 2-3 seconds (or more depending on your students’ needs). Your students will then identify and build the number using manipulatives on their own ten frame mat.  

This helps students quickly recognize a visual representation of a number and recreate it. Over time, they’ll begin to realize that a full ten frame equals ten. 

You can also use different types of number sense cards, such as fingers, tally marks, base ten blocks, dice, or even a number in standard or word form. All of these number sense cards can be found here!

Number cards for teaching number sense

Ten Frame Booklet

This ten frame activity is perfect for small group or independent practice during your number sense lesson plans.

Materials needed:

  • A Ten Frame Booklet from my 1st Grade Number Sense Unit for each student.
  • A ten frame mat for each student.
  • A set of manipulatives for each student.

How to Play: 

Each page of the ten frame booklet shows various ten frames. Students will practice identifying the numbers shown and modeling them on their own ten frame mat with manipulatives. Then, they will write the number next to the ten frame in their booklet. 

My Ten Frame Booklet for teaching number sense

Roll a Ten Frame

This number sense game can be played in several different ways and can be used to differentiate by using dice with various numbers of faces. 

Materials needed:

How to Play: 

Students will roll the dice one time. They will identify the number shown and draw or build it on their ten frame. Then, they will write the number being represented in number form. You can also have them write the number in word form. 

Roll and Color a Ten Frame Game

Painters Tape Ten Frame

This ten frame activity is a fun way to create a giant ten frame and get students excited about learning in your whole group lesson.

Materials needed:

  • A set of number cards.
  • Painter’s tape.
  • Paper plates.

How to Play: 

Create a giant ten frame using painter’s tape. Have students take turns drawing a number card, identifying the number, and representing it on the ten frame using paper plates. To take it a step further, students can write the number on a whiteboard.

Painter's Tape Giant Ten Frame

Shake, Rattle, and Count

This game is very versatile and can be used for teaching number sense and number recognition, as well as addition and subtraction. 

Materials needed: 

  • A ten frame mat for each student. 
  • A set of (10) 2-colored counters in a cup or small bucket or container for each student. 
  • A Shake, Rattle, and Count recording sheet or whiteboard for each student. 

How to Play: 

Students will place all 10 counters in their cup, cover and shake them up, and dump them on the table. They will then sort the counters by red and yellow and place them on the ten frame with like colors together. 

To practice number sense, students can draw the counters using red and yellow colors on their ten frame recording sheet. Then, they can write how many of each color in number or word form. 

To practice addition, students will use the red and yellow counters to represent addends. Then they can write the addition sentence and even the turn-around fact. For subtraction, students can write the subtraction sentence and use the counters to solve for the difference. 

Shake, Rattle, and Count Ten Frame Game

Ten Frame Math Journal Activity 

Using ten frame activities inside of your students’ math journals when teaching number sense is a great way to help them practice number sense skills while creating a visual to refer back to all year long.

Materials needed: 

How to Play: 

Students will cut and paste the pieces of this ten frame math journal activity. They will glue the number form, ten frame, and word form labels at the top of the page. From there, they will identify and match the number to its ten frame card and word form card before gluing them in order in their interactive notebook. 

Ten Frame Match Math Journal Activity

Ten Frame Match Cards

These ten frame match cards can be used in a ton of ways. They are perfect for teaching number sense with whole group pocket chart sorts, memory games, or Stand Up, Pair Up.

Materials needed:

How to Play: 

To use this as a memory game, mix up the cards and spread them out, face down. Students will take turns drawing 2 cards and identifying the numbers written or shown on the ten frame. If the student gets a ten frame and number card match, they keep the cards and go again. If not, the cards go back, face down, and play continues. The player with the most cards at the end is the winner. 

To use these match cards for Stand Up, Pair Up, shuffle the cards and give each student 1 card. They can’t show anyone their card until the teacher says “Stand Up, Pair Up!” Students will move around the room looking for their match. 

To use this as a pocket chart game, mix up all the ten frame and number cards and place them face down in a pile. Students will take turns drawing a card, identifying the number, and placing the card either on the ten frame side or the number side of the pocket chart. Students continue until all of the cards have been selected and matched up. 

Ten Frame Match Cards Pocket Chart Sort for teaching number sense

Ten Frame Spot It And Mark It

This ten frame activity is perfect for teaching number sense in small groups or as a quick warm up. 

Materials needed: 

  • A set of ten or twenty frame flash cards for the teacher. 
  • A different colored game marker for each student, such as a linking cube, mini eraser, etc. 

How to Play: 

Spread out your ten and twenty frame cards on your small group table, face up. The teacher will call out a number. Students will race to see who can spot the matching ten or twenty frame card first and mark it with their game piece. That student gets to keep the card. The student with the most number sense cards at the end of the game wins. 

Ten Frame Task Cards

Ten frame task cards are a great way to get students up and moving during your whole group mini-lesson or independent practice. 

Materials needed: 

How to Play: 

Place the task cards around the room. Students will walk around the room, find a ten frame task card, and identify the number shown. They’ll record the number in the matching spot on their recording sheet. They can also write the number in word form or draw the matching ten frame in the space on their recording sheet. 

Finding Ten Frames Number Sense Game


I hope you enjoyed learning more about teaching number sense with ten frames. I can’t wait for you to try out these number sense activities and games with your students.

If you liked the activities and games you saw in this post, you can find these and more in my 1st Grade Number Sense Guided Math Unit.

To see some of these number sense games in action, check out my YouTube video below!

Pin the image below so you can come back to this post later!

Ten frame activities for teaching number sense
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