One of the most foundational concepts in math is 'ten.' In our base ten number system it is imperative that students understand this.  Just knowing it is not enough.  They must truly understand it and be able to work with tens in a variety of ways in order to be successful in math.  As a primary teacher, we have an important role in laying the foundation and developing those concepts for your students.  I am excited to share with you how I teach the concept of ten and other place value concepts with my students.

Teaching the Importance of Ten

As we begin first grade, one of my goals is to teach my students that ten is a magical number. It's this special number 10 that allows us to move within the place value chart. It's this special number 10 that allows one blocks to magically connect to make a 10 rod. It's this special number 10 our entire number system is built around. A bundle of ten is very important and that's why we spend a lot of time working on it at the beginning of the year.

In kindergarten, students are introduced to numbers for number recognition and counting. However, their understanding of ten, in a place value context, is often limited. In kindergarten we practice counting to ten and beyond, but we don’t really recognize “ten” as a unit with leftovers.  Students learn to recognize teen numbers, but don't necessarily see them as ten with some ones remaining. For students it can be a difficult mental jump to get to this point. That's why practice, practice, practice is the name of the game.

Students must understand the importance of ten before they can move on to other math skills and concepts in the year. Without this understanding, we are just moving them through with mental gaps and holes in their learning.

Tools for Teaching Ten

My two favorite tools for working on the magical number ten is a hundred chart (or a 120 chart) and place value blocks. Both of these tools are designed to show these groups of tens in a more concrete way that students can understand. At first, I guide students through seeing the "tens" on the chart and in the blocks. We look for this pattern of ten as a way to reinforce its importance. As we work on place value and number sense skills we always connect it back to one or more of these visual tools. This visual representation that students can see, touch and move around makes these abstract concepts much more concrete.

As students grow in their understanding of the "ten concept" we begin to use other types of visual representations. These representations, like ten frames and tally marks, give students other strategies to use when working with numbers. Then, after lots and lots of practice, as students really get the concept of ten, they begin working with numbers alone. They are able to view the numbers and explain their meaning and value. This process of hands-on to visual representations to numbers is one we use again and again. It helps students move from concrete, hands-on representations to visual representations to the more abstract concepts of numbers and math.

Practicing Ten

When students are ready to begin practicing ten independently I always use Mega Math Practice!  At the beginning, students will work using math manipulatives to give them a hands-on activity for working with the concept of tens.  It is important that they do lots of work with those teen numbers and practice identifying them as ten with some left over.  From there we can apply this concept to larger numbers and multiple sets of ten with some leftover.

These practice worksheets, paired with place value blocks or a  hundred chart, make a great learning opportunity for students as they grow in their understanding of ten.

In this Making a Ten with Leftovers activity I love the power of using color to help students see the ten and the leftovers.  Even if math manipulatives are not used here, using colors to differentiate between the two helps students to visualize this important concept.

Two FREE Place Value Resources

This is such an important concept for our students.  Over the years I have developed a variety of different ways to help students learn and practice these concepts.  Here are two free resources you can use this year to help your students learn and use the concept of ten.

Free Teen Numbers Practice

At the beginning of the year you will be working on teen numbers.  The goal is to help students see that a teen number is ten with some more.  These practice activities will help your students do just that.  They are great for guided practice, independent practice and even small group instruction.  You can use this FREE Understanding Ten resource to help your students learn and practice these important skills.

Once students have a good understanding of the concept of ten and how it works with numbers to 100, your students will start using these concepts with basic addition and subtraction.  As with any new skill or concept, practice is key to helping our students master the skills.  Use these free Adding Within 100 activities later in the year to hep your students develop a strong foundation.

Everything You Need for Teaching Numbers and Base Ten Concepts

If you are ready to grab your full Mega Math Practice unit for Numbers and Base Ten Concepts you can find that it my store at Teachers Pay Teachers.  You can start your year knowing that you have everything you need for your students to practice understanding ten, teen numbers and beyond!

Pin It!

Be sure to pin this image to your favorite Pinterest math board for later so that you will be ready to teach numbers and base ten to first graders!