Ten Tens
Years 1 - 3

This is a game for two players ... One should be an adult or older child.


Plastic screw caps from soft drink and spring water bottles will fit the circles. Collect at least 10 in each of two colours. The board and the caps are a substitute for the school resource called Poly Plug. If you can think of something else that works let us know.
  • Print this Poly Plug Frame. It is the playing board. You need one for each player.
  • One spot dice per pair
  • One calculator each (there's one on your phone)
  • Write the title of this challenge and today's date on a fresh page in your maths journal.

How To Play Ten Tens

Ten Board


Cover the left three columns of the board with a piece of paper.
Then only the right side columns can be seen.
This is a Poly Plug 10 Frame.
Players sit at the 'bottom of the board.
They can be side by side or opposite.
Ten Board showing 5


Player A rolls the dice...
  • and leaves it where it lands...
  • then places that number of yellow plugs into the gaps in any way...
  • and adds on the calculator the number placed, in this case 5.
Player B now has their turn to do the same thing.
Player A now rolls again and adds more yellow plugs to their board. If their total is now ten or more, 10 plugs are exchanged for a blue which is placed on the other side of the board. For some children it might be necessary as a transitional step to fill the board and complete adding yellow plugs outside the board before the exchange is made.

When the exchange has been completed (if it is necessary on this turn), Player A uses their calculator again to continue the running record of the current move.

When the game began Player A had no plugs in the board, so their calculator showed zero. Then Player A rolled a 5, plugged in 5 yellow plugs and added 5 to their calculator. So, if 6 was rolled on the second turn, Player A would now press [+] [6] [=] and the screen would show 11, which matches the value of plugs on the board, ie: one blue worth 10 plus one yellow worth 1.
  • Note: Using the calculator provides a visual link between the symbolic representation on its screen, the kinaesthetic action of placing the plugs, and current number of tens and ones.
Player B now has their second turn and play continues in this manner until the chosen number of tens is reached or exceeded.

This class is playing to be the first to make 5 tens (5 blue plugs).

Ten Tens A

In this Year 1 at Holy Rosary School, Derby, the child
on the right has already made 10 once (indicated by
the blue plug) and has just rolled three more
towards the next ten.

Ten Tens B

Now she has plugged in the those three.

Take every opportunity to encourage children to read the number value they are currently up to and verbalise its tens and ones. In this case, she is up to 19, made from 1 ten and 9 ones. Children begin to realise that the 1 and the 9 also show in that order on the calculator screen.

Wow! so 19 isn't just that many separate things to count, it's also 1 ten and 9 ones.

  • Children should record a 'how to play' description in their maths journal using pictures and words.
  • Playing for about 15 minutes three times a week is usually enough. Some will want to play on for many weeks.
  • At the end of some of the games children should be asked What do you know now that you didn't know when the game started?.
  • Think, Share, Write & Draw.
  • Once the game has been modelled a couple of times, two siblings can easily play the game without adult assistance.

There are more ideas in the Answers & Discussion, including experiences from a Year 6 extending it with their own questions.

Have fun exploring Ten Tens.

Just Before You Finish

For this part you need your maths journal and your Working Like A Mathematician page.
  • Draw an oval in your journal.
    • Change it into a face that shows how you feel about Ten Tens.
    • Add a speech bubble if you wish.
  • What do you know now that you didn't know when you started Ten Tens?


Answers & Discussion

These notes were originally written for teachers. We have included them to support parents to help their child learn from Ten Tens.

Send any comments or photos about this activity and we can start a gallery here.


Maths At Home is a division of Mathematics Centre