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Building Numbers Up to 10

Number and Operations
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

Students construct sets of numbers up to 10, write the numerals up to 10, and count up to 10 rationally. They use ten frames and also make bean sticks.

To assess prior knowledge, give each student a blank piece of paper. Display Numeral Cards from 0 to 10 in random order and ask the students to draw sets of objects that match the numeral displayed.

pdficon Numeral Cards 

Observe and document the names of those students who consult resources in the room that help them complete the task, as this might demonstrate a lack of understanding.

Ask students to share their drawings with the class.

To begin the lesson, ask students if they have ever heard the expression "High Five." Tell students that they will use a variation of that greeting by making High Sixes, Sevens, Eights, Nines, and Tens.

To demonstrate its meaning, "High Ten" the student to your right. Hold up both of your hands with fingers extended upward to that student and say "High Ten." The student should touch the palm of your hands with his or her palms.

Ask that child to name a "High" number from 5 to 10 and greet the student next to him or her by extending the correct number of fingers upward and touching palms. That student will name a number and greet the next student, and so on around the circle.

Next, give students paper and crayons and have them work in pairs to trace both hands with the fingers outstretched, then label the tracing "10."

Call on 11 volunteers and assign each a number between 0 and 10. Ask them to make a numeral card for their assigned number. Collect and shuffle the numeral cards.

Next, put out connecting cubes, and then show the students a numeral card. Say, "Put this many cubes, one per finger, on the tracing you just made. Then make a tower with the cubes and lift it in the air."

Ask them how many stories are in the tower. Repeat with the other numeral cards 0 to 10, in random order.

BuildingNumbersUpTo10 IMAGE 5ConnectingCubesOnHands 

When they can comfortably make towers for the given numbers, show two numeral cards, for example, 6 and 10. Ask the students to make two towers and compare them. Next, ask students to share their comparisons with the class using descriptive vocabulary.

Comparisons might include:

10 is greater than 6
10 is 4 more than 6
6 is 4 less than 10

Ask students to look at a numeral card you have displayed. Review with the students how to make the numeral. Turn your back to the class so that you will be writing in the same orientation as the students. Then trace the figure in the air with large strokes. Encourage the students to do this with you.

You may find the Suggestions for Numeral Writing Teacher Resource Guide helpful for students who are having difficulty writing the numerals.

pdficon Suggestions for Numeral Writing Teacher Resource Guide 

As a take-home record of this lesson, or as an entry in their learning portfolio, have the students lay two towers on a piece of paper, trace around each tower, and write the numerals for each under them (as shown below). Encourage students to write a comparison of the towers in words and/or symbols.

1762 lesson 1 image 1

Next, give each student a copy of the Ten Frames Activity Sheet.

pdficon Ten Frames Activity Sheet 

Ask students to model each number you show by placing one counter per section in the Ten Frame, beginning at the smiley face and moving in the direction the arrow is pointing until the top row is full.

Display a numeral card and observe the students as they place the connecting cubes. Ask them to remove the cubes before they model the next number.

The ten frame uses the concept of benchmark numbers (5 and 10) and helps students develop visual images for each number. For example, this device makes it easy to see that 6 is 1 more than 5 and that 6 is 4 less than 10.

You may wish them to write each number as they model it in the ten frame.

1762 lesson 1 image 2

Students may also use the Ten Frame tool to explore numbers up to 10. This interactive can be used on mobile devices.

appicon Ten Frame Tool 

Finally, distribute three craft sticks, white glue, and pinto beans to each student. Have the students glue 10 beans on each stick, spacing them equally in two groups of 5.

pdficon Bean Stick Tutorial

The inventor of bean sticks, Bob Wirtz, suggested this placement so that students would be aware of the relationships of numbers to the benchmark numbers 5 and 10. He used this same principle when he invented the ten frame.

Ask students to make three sticks, each with 10 beans, and then bring the sticks to you. As you receive each stick, ask the student to check that the number of beans is correct, then have him or her lay another layer of white glue across the beans. The glue will dry clear and will make the bean sticks more durable. Put the bean sticks on a table or a windowsill to dry and tell students they will use them in future lessons.


  • Burton, Grace M. Towards A Good Beginning: Teaching Early Childhood Mathematics. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley, 1985.
  • Wirtz, Robert. Drill and Practice at the Problem Solving Level. Washington, D.C.: CDA, 1974. 

Assessment Options 

  1. The Questions for Students will help you assess students’ levels of knowledge.
  2. Use the Class Notes Sheet to document your observations about students’ understanding and skills. You may find this information useful when discussing student progress toward the lesson objectives with students, parents, administrators, and colleagues.
    pdficonClass Notes 


Rather than an extension, it is recommended that you move on to the next lesson in this unit, Building Sets of 11 and 12


Questions for Students 

1. What numbers did we talk about today?

[0 to 10.]

2. Pick a number. Show me that many fingers. Show me that many cubes.

3. Can you find the numeral card that shows that number? Count out loud to that number. Write that number.

[While technically what we write is a numeral, not a number, this distinction is not necessary at the early grade levels.]

4. How did you show this number on the ten frame? Make a ten frame, which shows how many fingers I am holding up.

Teacher Reflection 

  • Which students were able to stay on task when they worked in the whole group setting? Are there any changes in seating I should make?
  • Which students were able to stay on task when they worked independently? What experiences are necessary for those who could not?
  • Which students could count to 10? What experiences are necessary for those who could not?
  • Which students are able to identify the numerals to 10? Which could write all of them? What practice is needed for those who cannot identify them?
  • Which students could use the ten frame to show the meanings of numerals up to 10? How can I help those who cannot do this yet?
  • What adjustments will I make the next time I teach this lesson?
BuildingSetsOf11And12 ICON
Number and Operations

Building Sets of 11 and 12

Students use bean sticks, connecting cubes, and ten frames to construct sets of 11 and 12, record them, and compare them.
BuildingSetsOf13and14 ICON
Number and Operations

Building Sets of 13 and 14

Students construct and identify sets of size 13 and size 14. They compare sets to sets of size 13 and size 14, and record the number in the sets. They decompose a set of 13 and a set of 14 in several ways.
BuildingSetsOf15And16 ICON
Number and Operations

Building Sets of 15 and 16

Students explore the numbers 15 and 16. They make and decompose sets of size 15 and size 16, write the numerals 15 and 16, and compare other sets to sets of size 15 and size 16.
BuildingSetsOf17And18 ICON
Number and Operations

Building Sets of 17 and 18

Students construct sets up to size 18, write the numerals 17 and 18, and model 17 and 18 with bean sticks, cubes, and ten frames.
BuildingSetsOf19And20 ICON
Number and Operations

Building Sets of 19 and 20

Students explore sets of 19 and 20. They count up to 20, construct and decompose sets up to 20, and record the decomposition.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Construct groups of 0 to 10 objects.
  • Identify and write the numerals 0 to 10.
  • Record the number of objects in groups of size 0 to 10.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Connect number words and numerals to the quantities they represent, using various physical models and representations.
  • Count with understanding and recognize "how many" in sets of objects.
  • Develop a sense of whole numbers and represent and use them in flexible ways, including relating, composing, and decomposing numbers.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.1
    Count to 100 by ones and by tens.

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.2
    Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1).

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.B.5
    Count to answer ''how many?'' questions about as many as 20 things arranged in a line, a rectangular array, or a circle, or as many as 10 things in a scattered configuration; given a number from 1-20, count out that many objects.

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.3
    Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.4
    For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

-Kindergarten, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.NBT.A.1
    Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.

Grade 1, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.A.1
    Count to 120, starting at any number less than 120. In this range, read and write numerals and represent a number of objects with a written numeral.

Common Core State Standards – Practice

  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4
    Model with mathematics.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP5
    Use appropriate tools strategically.