Fingers: A Powerful Representation of Ten Go to Articles

Representations of ten are used for teaching place value, number sense, and computation. However, many of the resources used for representing ten (frames, sticks, cubes, rods, and blocks) do not clearly show the individual ones within the number or effectively demonstrate three- and four-digit numbers. For example, all one thousand smaller cubes are not visible within a one thousand base-10 cube.

Fingers are a ready and powerful resource for representing ten that students already use naturally in mathematics (e.g. for counting). They readily show ten as 10 ones or 1 ten, and so are ideal for further developing understanding of two-, three-, and four-digit numbers. This property also makes them an effective resource for developing mental computation strategies such as bridging to 10 and splitting numbers into places.

Representing 0–10 with fingers

Have each student hold both their hands up palms forward and make fists, then raise their fingers one at a time, starting from the little finger of their right hand (the audience’s left).

Presenting the numbers in this way shows left-to-right reading for the audience. The raised and unraised fingers also represent the two parts that total 10 (e.g. “I’m showing 7 fingers and I need 3 more to make 10.”).

Representing numbers beyond 10 with fingers

Have more than one student show the tens and ones. For example, three students will show 28 like this:

As well as showing the 28 ones, it also shows that there are 2 tens and 8 ones, and that 2 more ones are needed to make 30. Showing the tens and ones simultaneously helps students develop a deep understanding of the place-value system.

Bibliography

Tickle, B. (2007). DecaCards: A real hands-on approach to teaching place value. Brisbane, Australia: ORIGO Education.

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