My 1st graders and 2nd graders have been adding numbers using ten frames, and our work has led me to make some observations. Ten frames are powerful tools for building the critical benchmarks of 5 and 10, but only if students are guided to understand and use the structure of the ten frame. If students are counting each counter or dot on a ten frame, they are not capitalizing on the power of the tool. Students should understand that if one row is filled, either the top or bottom, that row contains 5 and does not need to be counted. Likewise, if the entire ten frame is filled, it shows 10…without counting. These ideas are fundamental to moving children past counting by 1s and toward more sophisticated strategies, including counting on and decomposing numbers.
I discussed with the students that when a row is full, it’s five. They proved it by counting each counter. Yet each time the students needed to count counters greater than five, they still reverted to counting the top row by 1s. So we started practicing what I call a Fast Five. We run our finger along the top row and when we get to the end of the row, we say 5. Then we count on from 5. So to count the ten frame shown below, we’d say 5, 6, 7. Now, each time my students start to count a full row by 1s, I ask them if they can use a Fast Five. It’s helping them break the habit of counting by 1s, and they’re getting much better at counting on. My 2nd graders are doing numbers greater than 10, so we do a Fast Ten as well.
I’ve also included some Halloween themed quick flash cards along with Capture 4 and Go Fish games for making 10 in my new Halloween Making Ten unit.