popsicle stick ten frame tutorial

Posted on: October 26th, 2014 by jnovakowski

I have created a photo tutorial of how to make the popsicle ten frames that we have been using as part of our Reggio-Inspired Mathematics Inquiry Project here in Richmond. After the ten frames have popped up in photos in presentations I have done at the NCTM conference in New Orleans and the BCAMT conference in Surrey, I have had many requests for info on how to make them.

So here we go…

For each popsicle stick ten frame you need:

12 standard size popsicle sticks

strong scissors

Aleene’s tacky glue (others may work but this is my tried and true favourite)


I usually work on wax or parchment paper so that I can easily peel off the ten frames once they are dry (some glue gets under them).

Using strong scissors, but just the tips off of three popsicle sticks.


Next, cut about one-third off another three popsicle sticks. The length of the longer piece which you will be using for the ten frames should be about 7.5cm long.


Glue the straight tips of the popsicle sticks together.


Position the three long glued-together sticks equal distances apart, using a popsicle stick to use as a referent. (If you are mass producing the ten frames, you could draw a template under your wax or parchment paper.) Glue a popsicle stick on each end of your frame. I find putting a dot of glue on the three contact spots on the base the easiest way to make sure everything lines up.


Glue a popsicle stick directly over the “joints” of your long three glued-together sticks. This helps to reinforce and stabilize your ten frame.


Glue down the last three popsicle sticks to make your ten frame and let the glue dry…time will depend on the temperature and humidity. I am usually making them late at night and just leave them be overnight and they are good to go in the morning!


Now, you could be all particular and measure this out exactly but I just kind of eyeball it. After all, I am making these homemade creations for students as tools, and I have never had a single student comment that the ten frames aren’t exactly straight or the spaces all equal!

Students can use loose parts, mathematics manipulatives or other items to represent numbers for both counting, developing number sense and as a tool for beginning computation.


One of the nice features of these frames is that students can lift them up and the representation stays behind…another way to visualize. The ten frame can then be used over and over again to create number representations.


And yes, these little mushrooms are my latest obsessions. I just painted the tops of small wooden drawer pulls. I also made a set of dotted red amanita mushrooms to help students think about subitizing.




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