Introducing the Value of Numbers to a Child with Special Needs with Ten Frame Mats

We are often tempted to begin teaching numbers and counting to children before they are ready to understand their value. A child with special needs may sometimes struggle to make the connection between the oral listing of numbers (counting) and the amount those numbers represent. Ten Frames are popular printable pages used in many classrooms. This post contains four ways to adapt ten frames to teach number values to children with special needs.

Ten Frames Special Needs


Ten Frame Clip Cards for Centers or Independent Practice, developed by Confessions of a Teaching Junkie, is a great tool to use to introduce the value of numbers to children who have learning difficulties as well as to those learning the value of numbers for the first time.

What the kit contains:

  • 2 different self-checking clip cards for each number 1-20
  • Numbers 11-20 are on larger cards
  • Directions for assembly and use

Why I like this kit:

  • one mat per page – only print what you need
  • designed with hands-on interaction in mind
  • open-ended possibilities for use
  • numbers are printed clearly
  • images are in color and are easily recognizable by children
  • directions are easy to follow and include sample images for use and for storage of materials
  • mats reinforce counting visually
  • activities help with 1-to-1 correspondence (a prerequisite to understanding the value of numbers)

How to adapt 10 frames for a child with special needs:

Below are four suggestions for using this kit for a child who requires additional support. Laminate the cards as suggested by Confessions of a Teaching Junkie to get maximum usage.

Teaching Number Values to Kids with Special Needs

1. Limit the number of mats.

I recommend only printing out mats your child is ready to begin working with. Is it with numbers 1-3? 1-5? 5-10? 10-15? 15-20? Don’t overwhelm your child by presenting him with all of the cards at once.10 frame cards_1

2. Use a variety of manipulatives to keep the activity fresh.

Counters can be clothes pins, toy cars, puzzle pieces, blocks, rolled up clay, counting bears or frogs, other play animals, etc. Be sure the objects can lay flat or are easy to manipulate to reduce frustration. If loose objects are too difficult for your child to manage, add Velcro to the back of large Bingo counters. 10 frame cards_2

3. Compare first.

Have the child compare the images on two different boards that sit side-by-side. Ask, “Which has more?” and “Which has less?”

4. Use the cards intended for self-checking.

The creator of this kit suggests cutting around the outside of both pieces together, then folding in half to make the board self-checking. My suggestion is to use the cards that are meant to be used for self-checking as initial learning activities. 10 frame cards_4_1

You can hide both ends, just the left side, or just right side by folding over the cards. 10 frame cards_4_2

Have your child match the counters to the pictures. Say: “Put blocks on cats.” Progress to: “How many cats?” Then, “Put blocks on board. Let’s count.”

Only once he’s mastered this with all cards in his set, have him represent the numerals. 10 frame cards_4_3

Interested in adapting ten frames to teach number values? There are many teacher-made ten frames available on Educents for a discount!

About the All-Star Blogger

gabrielleGabriella Volpe is a homeschooling mom of a child with special needs, a certified teacher and the homeschool consultant for families of children with special needs. She knows first-hand what it means to struggle with educational planning for a child who does not fit the system and is limited by resources and products intended for children without disabilities. She helps parents find ways to adapt and modify the curriculum so they don’t have to spend hours figuring it out on their own. She also helps after-schooling families of children with special needs navigate their way around the homework hours. You can find her at

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