Ten Friends
Years K - 1 (2)

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.
  • Print this Poly Plug Paper. Use it to record the final position in each round.
  • One spot dice
  • One calculator (there's one on your phone)
  • Write the title of this challenge and today's date on a fresh page in your maths journal.
When the activity is over your Poly Plug Paper should be put into your journal beside any other notes you make.

How To Play Ten Friends

Ten Board


Cover the bottom three rows of the board with a piece of paper.
Then only the top two rows can be seen
This is a Poly Plug 10 Frame.
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 writes on the calculator the number placed [5 in this case].

(Alternatively, leave out this third step for now and bring in calculator recording later as below.)

Complement of 5 to make 10 Player B has to 'look hard' at the empty spaces and tell their guess of the number of blue plugs it will take to fill the gaps,
saying I think I need...
Then they check their guess by counting blue plugs into the spaces...
and complete an equation on the calculator to make ten, in this case 5 [+] [5] [=] 10.

Alternatively, Player B may tell their guess then write the equation first to show they know the Ten Friend. However, a mathematician always checks things another way, so they now count in the blue plugs to confirm.

  • Once a hypothesis has been checked by counting in, players say together Look we have made ... (in this case) ... five plus five equals ten, pointing at the board as they speak.
  • Record the round on the Poly Plug Paper.
  • Players swap roles and play another round.
  • They will want to continue for many rounds, but about 15 minutes three times a week is usually enough.
  • Once the game has been modelled a couple of times, two siblings can easily play the game without adult assistance.
Some will want to play on for many weeks and this can be encouraged by asking What happens if...? questions.
  • What happens if ... we play with three rows?
  • What happens if ... we play with four rows and two dice? (add the spots on the two dice)
There are more ideas in the Answers & Discussion.

Have fun exploring Ten Friends.

Just Before You Finish

For this part you need your maths journal and your Working Like A Mathematician page.
  • Draw a picture of you and me playing Ten Friends today.
  • How did we work like a mathematician today? Record 2 ways.


Answers & Discussion

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

Ten Friends Gallery

Send any comments or photos about this activity and we can add them to this gallery.


2nd April 2020

Yep, just touch the screen and the dice rolls.
Dad introduced Ten Friends to Mr 6-y-o and Mr. Nearly-4-y-o. They had a dice on the phone. Mr. 6-y-o wanted to push more out and add up as he went. When there was less than 6 left he calculated how many needed to get to 25.

We also played noughts and crosses with 9 empty spaces in the red board. Fun.

One of the advantages of the 5x5 frame supplied with this activity is that if part of it is covered, as suggested above, it almost physically invites learners to ask What happens if...? in some way, just as it did for Mr. 6-y-o.

30th March 2020
Sisters exploring and enjoying their first play with Ten Friends. They both recorded in their maths journals. One a 41/2 year old pre-schooler and one a 73/4 year old Year 2.
Wonderful work doing Maths At Home girls.
Thanks to Mum for being such a good helper. Hope you had fun too.

Maths At Home is a division of Mathematics Centre