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Activities for Teaching Five and Ten Frames in Kindergarten Math

Kindergarten is a crucial time to help young children develop important math skills like number sense. Using five and ten frames is a great way to help students master this skill. These hands-on math tools allow students to visualize the number, helping them grasp a deeper conceptual understanding instead of just memorizing math facts. There are so many different ways to utilize these tools in kindergarten math. Here are some of our favorite ways to use five and 10-frame activities for kindergarten.

5 and 10 Frame Materials

For all the following activities, you will need five/ten frames and counters, ideally enough for every student to complete their own. Here are a few ideas for getting these items:

Five/Ten Frames

  • Search for free printables online. Print and cut out for each student.
  • Use old egg cartons and cut them to size.
  • Have students draw one on a piece of paper or on white board.
  • Ice cube trays (again, they may need to be cut to size).
  • Make a large frame on your classroom floor using masking tape.

Counters

  • Two-sided counters (different colors on each side)
  • Coins
  • Mini erasers
  • Beans
  • Beads
  • Pom-poms
  • Small nature items, like small rocks or acorns
  • Dry-erase markers (if using a whiteboard or laminated ten-frame)

You may need additional materials like number cards or completed ten-frames for some activities. These items can often be printed online, or you could easily draw them yourself. For number cards, you can pull cards from a traditional deck of cards or another card game like UNO.

5 Math Games Using Five and Ten Frames

1. Flash Frame

This simple game is great subitizing practice, which helps with building number sense. Subitizing is the ability to see a visual representation of a number (such as five dots to represent the number 5) and quickly identify the number of objects without counting. Using 5 or 10 frames for this activity would be a simple way to practice this skill. Use a variety of 5 or 10-frame cards filled in with different amounts. Quickly flash the card in front of your young learners and have them raise their hands or write down the number they believe they saw. By flashing it quickly, you are not giving them time to count, so they will be forced to rely only on their mental images of numbers. When introducing this game, leave the card up for a few seconds. As your students get more practice, start putting the card down faster.

Once your students master this game using the frames, try challenging them with tally marks or dot cards!

2. Make a Number

One incredibly simple yet meaningful activity to help your students understand numbers is by using five and ten frames to build numbers. Start with five frames to practice numbers up to 5, then move on to 10 frames once students have mastered 1-5.

One fun way to do this activity is using unconventional counters, such as mini erasers, beads, or pom-poms. Give students a blank ten-frame (or five-frame) and a certain number of counters. Have students draw number cards and then show the number on their frame using their counters. Students may initially accomplish this task by counting, but eventually, they will be able to complete this ten-frame activity without counting.

You can challenge your students by putting them with a partner or small group and having them compete to see who can show each number in their frame the fastest. This activity will help students become more proficient in recognizing numbers without counting, as counting will slow them down.

3. How Many More?

This five or ten-frame math game is an excellent introduction to subtraction! Show students a frame card complete with a particular number. Then ask them how many more would be needed to complete the frame. You may choose to have students also model each number on their own frame if desired.

For example, start with a five frame that shows 3. Students will mark their own five frames with three counters and then quickly determine how many more counters are needed to complete the five frame (2). Add a competition aspect by putting students in groups of two and seeing which partner in each group can come up with the correct number faster.

For an extra challenge, have students write a number sentence to go with the subtraction problems. You should first model this for your students and show them how they should start with the total number (5 or 10), then put the minus sign and the number they showed on their frame, then the equal sign follows.

4. Addition Introduction

You can also use five and ten frames to introduce simple addition to your kindergarten students. Once again, students will use their frame cards and counters to do this activity. Give students a number to start with and allow them to use their counters to make the first number. Then, tell them to add a certain number more to their card. Now, they will have a new total!

To help students visualize this even better, have them use different color counters to represent each number. For example, in the problem 3+4, students might first use red counters to show 3, then add four yellow counters. This illustration will help them see that they put together two numbers to make one new one.

Once students have started getting the hang of this concept, teach them how to write an addition number sentence to go with each problem.

5. Ten-Frame Sensory Bin

Sensory bins are a great activity for young children, and they can easily incorporate them into your math centers for some extra ten-frame practice. Start by creating a basic sensory bin – this can be a large container filled with dry rice, beans, or pasta. Put small items to use as counters inside the bin. Be creative, as you can use anything for counters! Pom-poms, small rocks, animal figurines, or anything else your students are interested in would work great. Then, put out some five or ten frames for students to practice with. You can use frames that have been printed and laminated or buy nicer frames made out of plastic or wood. You can even make them yourself using an egg carton (just cut off the lid and two or seven egg compartments). Finally, supply this station with some number cards.

Small groups of students working at this center will draw a number card, then reach into the sensory bin to collect their counters. They will add the counters to their frame to make the number. If your students are ready, you could also try this activity with addition and subtraction. Supply students with cards showing number bonds missing one number. Students can then use their frames and counters to determine the missing number.

For a mess-free option, have each student make a sensory bag instead. Take a zipper-type plastic bag and draw a five or ten frame on the top using a permanent marker. Fill the inside of the bag with clear hair gel and a little water. Close the bag tightly, leaving no air inside. Then, add in the same amount of counters (5 or 10 to match the frame) – small pom-poms, beans, etc. would work great for this activity! Students can practice with five or ten frame by pushing the counters inside the bag to the five or ten frame. It’s mess-free and a great sensory experience! As a bonus, sensory bins and bags help build fine motor skills! Students will have so much fun with this math activity.

Why Five and Ten Frame Activities Are Important

Using five and ten frames with young preschoolers and kindergarteners has many benefits. These tools can help with a variety of important math concepts, such as:

  • Place value
  • Decomposing numbers
  • Number sense
  • Subitizing
  • Making 5 or 10
  • Addition and subtraction

With a lot of practice with different numbers and ten-frames, students will begin to have a solid conceptual understanding of our number system. Building this foundation in our students while they are young will help them succeed in math as they get older. Using five and ten frames is a great way to do this! With regular practice, your students will be ready to take on first-grade math with confidence by the end of the school year. So, be sure to add these great learning activities to your lesson plans!

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