Ten frames can be used to build number sense, help students gain "mental math" fluency, and to better understand how to use the math strategies of "composing and decomposing" numbers, to complete operations over places (i.e. from tens to hundreds, or thousands to hundreds.)
First graders are active not only in learning number facts to ten and twenty, but also building "number sense" by using manipulatives, pictures and other supports to better understand numbers. For children with disabilities, they need extra time to learn number sense. It needs to be paired with lots and lots of use of manipulatives. They also need to be discouraged from using their fingers, which will become crutches when they are in second or third grade, and expected to regroup for addition and subtraction.
The Mathematical Foundation for Ten Frame Use
Math educators have increasingly found the importance of "subitizing" for math fluency. It is even part of the new Common Core State Standards:
CCSS Math Standard 1.OA.6: Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 – 4 = 13 – 3 – 1 = 10 – 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 – 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).
Using the Ten Frame
To build number sense: Be sure to give your emerging math students lots of time to explore numbers: what numbers don't fill one row? (Those less than 5.) What numbers fill more than the first row? (Numbers larger than 5.)
Look at numbers as sums including five: Have students make the numbers to 10 and write them as composites of 5 and another number: i.e. 8= 5 + 3.
Look at numbers in the context of ten. In other words, how many do you need to add to 6 to make ten? This will later help students decompose addition greater than ten: i.e. 8 plus 8 is 8 plus 2 plus 6, or 16.
Make ten frame cards with the attached pdf, running them on card stock and laminating them for durability. Use round counters (these are two sided, red and yellow)though any sort of counter will do: teddies, dinosaurs, lima beans or poker chips.
I've also created some free printable worksheets to give your students practice seeing and identifying the numbers on the ten frame. You can find them here.
Give your students lots and lots of practice!