Earlier this week we were fortunate enough to be able to visit a school and observe a Year 1 lesson with ten frame. The primary school is your typical Inner London school full of mixed ability pupils from various parts of the world, but with one slight difference in their approach to teaching mathematics, they were using the Singapore Maths approach to teaching and decided late last year that they will be using the Maths No Problem books.

The lesson itself focussed on subtracting withing 20 and as with the Singapore approach, which is very didactic, the class only looked at subtracting from the ones in this lesson, so something like 18-5. What we saw was that children could quite quickly make numbers beyond 10 using the ten frame but not all could recognise that numbers from 11 onwards required 2 ten frames. So for example 11, is one complete ten frame and one more cube within the second ten frame.

Year 1 pupil showing how to subtract with a ten frameThe class, in this case, didn’t have a strong enough understanding of place value for them to be able to answer similar questions without the concrete materials, which is fine in the first lesson as the school follows Jerome Bruner’s CPA approach. So what is the next step? Using the ten frame I would suggest the class focus on understanding that 17, for example, is not just how you ‘spell’ a number but each digit has a value. Making 17 would be a start and ‘seeing’ the maths evolve with your own eyes has a deep impact on learning and understanding. Asking children to write down the number 17 and trying to get the class to connect the abstract with the concrete is where the most important part of learning place value lies. Can you see how we wrote 17? 1 and a 7, can you see any of those numbers in your ten frame? Ohh you can see the seven? Can anyone see 1 of something? Aha…1 ten? Ohh that’s interesting! Going through numbers from 11-14 in the same way with the emphasis on the ones and also 1 ten, getting the children to show you using the ten frame and allowing the children to take more control allows for richer questioning after the number 14 has been looked at. Can anyone tell me how they think we can make 18? What do we need? How many ten frames do we need? How many cubes do I need to put on the first ten frame? How do we write down 18? Does the number tell us how many will go in the first ten frame? Is it one? what does that 1 mean again? Ohh there has to be 1 ten? ok great, so what next? Ohh another 8? Excellent! So what if asked you this….

What is 18-8? Can you use your ten frame to explain to your partner how we could do this? Ohh we can take the 8 away from the ones? So, looking at your ten frame, which ten frame should we take the 8 away from? Ahh let’s write that down, 18 = 10 + 8. So when we subtract the 8, what are we left with? Only the 10, can you see that on your ten frame? After a few examples and hands-on questions with discussions. We can then start to ask, How can we do this without using the ten frame? Let’s try 16-5, how can we think of this question? Ohh 16 is 10 and a 6? Ok, so what does the question ask us to do? subtract 5 from 16, where can we subtract the 5 from? Should we subtract from the 10 or 6? Ok. so what is 6-5? So is the answer 1? Let’s try that with our ten frame, do we get 1? So what did we forget? Aha, we forgot that there is still the ten!

Would you like ten frames training for you EYFS and Year 1 staff? Find out how we can help unleash your inner ten frame, just contact us.