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The Ten Wand

Whether the beginning of the year or somewhere in the middle, it’s never too late to establish routines for your class. To that end, I want to offer another daily routine for building number sense. Check out this related post for many other ideas!

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This routine comes from Number Sense Routines, an amazing book filled with quick and easy ideas for developing mathematical understanding through daily routines!

I love this quote in the book from a third grader as he explained how he had mentally calculated a multi-digit addition problem:

“I’m always trying to find a way to make ten to make [the problem] easier. I guess that’s why ten is so important.  It helps me do it in my head.”

Which brings me to the Ten Wand. It’s a routine for building an understanding of the combinations for ten. A ten wand is a train of 10 linking cubes–5 of one color and 5 of another. When students break the wand into two pieces, the result is a combination for 10. Because of the two colors, it uses the visual representation of 5 to help students more easily identify the two parts for 10. For example, in the ten wand shown below, students know there are 5 blue cubes without counting, which makes it easier for them to identify that part as 8 (5 and 3).

To use this as a daily routine, the teacher and each student need a ten wand. As students “break” the wand, the teacher engages students in questions about how many cubes are on the floor and how many are still in their hand, recording student responses on a class chart. After engaging in this type of activity daily for several weeks, the routine can be revisited periodically or moved to a workstation. I created a recording sheet that can be used for students to record their work at the workstation.


Click here to grab yours. Notice that there are 11 boxes made from dashed lines. The one extra box will show where the wand is “broken”. I thought that would be an easy way to support the drawing of the result.

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  1. I teach first grade and saw this just now. I love it! We use Everyday Math in my district and we will begin Unit 2 next week which covers Complements of 10. This is a difficult concept for some so the more hands on practice my students get, the better! Thanks for sharing! Have a great Saturday!

  2. We are also beginning Unit 2 and I found this to be amazingly enlightening! It seems so simple, but there is such power in students being able to manipulate their math facts. Love this 10 wand! And I will have to look into purchasing that number sense book!

    1. So many great ideas for combinations of ten! Be sure to check out Bagels and Blogs tomorrow for another easy idea. 🙂

    1. I’m not sure you would use this particular routine for 3rd grade, unless it was for remediation. There are other routines in the book for older grades. I’ll put it on my list to blog about one. 🙂

  3. Hi Donna,

    I am a regular follower. I love the make ten wand… I have taught 2nd grade for the last 5 years. And now I am back in Kindergarten. It was always frustrating to see how many 2nd graders did not have the “make 10” combinations down. I am going to work hard to have my kinders get it! This will be a huge help! Thank you for all that do!


    1. Hey, Sara! You have a whole different perspective when you change grades like that, don’t you? You’ll send those kiddos to 1st grade well prepared. 🙂

  4. kinder teacher here too! Thank you for having the sheet available. I am going to model this in our calendar time then have it as one of their jobs. Fantastic idea. Thanks for sharing and helping my class.

  5. I love the ‘magic wand’ idea, but I don’t think my kinders can handle the extra block. We did something similar for decomposing with’making 8 and making 9.’ Since we used two different colored blocks, they could easily see what they were using to ‘make’ the sum. However, that 11th block in this one, I think might be too confusing. Cute idea, though.

    1. I’m sorry, but I really have no explanation for that. Are you sure you have the most current version of Acrobat PDF Reader?

  6. I teach kindergarten and have been using Target Number practice to build fact knowledge. I wonder if the Ten Wand could become a 5 wand or a 6 wand? Would you recommend using one color? Or like for 6 use 5 of 1 and 1 of another?

    1. Yes! You could definitely use this routine for numbers less than ten. For five, I would use all one color. For numbers above five, I would use five of one color and a different color for the extras.

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