Learning teen numbers with Free Printable MAB Teen Number Cards

Nov 21, 2013

Today's activity is part of an ongoing series, Exploring Reggio. Our co-creators for the series are, The Imagination TreeAn Everyday StoryOne Perfect DayTwodaloo and Racheous- Lovable Learning.

**EDIT: See the bottom of the post to download our free printable MAB Teen Number Cards.**

Learning and Exploring Teen Numbers with kids

including Free Printable MAB Number Cards

One of the areas that my daughter (almost 5y/o) still gets a little confused with from time to time is the teen numbers. This is an area, in fact, that tends to confuse a lot of children and it is important that rather than just having the ability to rote-count and recognise numerals, they have a good and solid understanding of the base ten system and that teen numbers are made up from one group of 10 and x ones. 

Drawing upon inspiration of a Reggio environment and materials that are inviting, I set up the below invitation for her to to explore, manipulate, count, write, read, add and test.

I gave a lot of thought to my daughter's interests, such as reading 100's charts and writing. It would have been easy for me to write the desired numbers on the cups but I needed to trust that she had the potential and the desire to find her own meanings and make her own connections. 

Trying to achieve some enhancement of understanding for teen numbers in particular without forcing the learning and being specific about the outcomes or directions was a little bit difficult for me but it's all part of my own learning and you can see how it turned out below.

  • Numbers chart 
  • manipulatives (eg. buttons, counters, pebbles) 
  • plastic cups 
  • sticky-notes
  • marker

I set these out in a light filled window and left them there. "What do I do?" she wanted to know. "What do you want to do?" I asked.

For our manipulatives in this activity, I pulled out one of our 13 Spielgaben sets. 

My daughter has recently been having fun creating little pictures with these small brightly-coloured wooden disks, so I knew that they would draw her into the activity. 

I find children usually enjoy using and manipulating very small items, as for many years, the main materials they are generally given to play with are a lot larger (and less of a choking hazard). So, something small and fiddly can be enticing and interesting (and great for their developing fine motor skills as well!)

You could use a wide variety of materials as your manipulative (eg buttons, pebbles, counters, cereal, etc.).

(You can read what I have to say about the Spielgaben play set here and why I think there are some educational toys that are worth the money! Spielgaben definitely falls into this category)

As I wanted to reinforce the idea that teen numbers are made up from 10 and x more, I started off some of the cups with a few basic numbers as example and wrote a couple more teen numbers that she could stick on if required. I hoped that this basic push towards the direction I wanted would be enough.

She started by filling the pre-numbered cups with corresponding amounts. As she counted ten into the 10 cup, she lost count and looked at me for some sort of reassurance. "What should you do?" I asked and after a seconds thought she tipped them out and re-counted them until she had assured herself there were ten coloured disks in the cup.

I would have loved her to use all the same colour to make up the 10 but choosing all the different colours was a great part of the appeal for her.

I asked her how many little coloured disks she thought she would have if she tipped these 2 cups into one another? She tipped them out onto the table and I went off to make a coffee.

When I came back, this is what I found. This was joy for me. She knew how to count them all and she found that it was 13, but in order to find out the number she'd write on a sticky-note, she used one-to-one correspondence to place one wooden disk in each number square on the chart, and give the perfect representation of 10 and 3 more. 13 in total. 

I loved that this time she didn't automatically ask me, "Mum, do I write thirteen, 3-1 or 1-3?" but instead, using the materials around her and prior knowledge and understanding of 1:1, figured it out on her own. 

Proving that I need to trust the foundations she knows and that she can find out and do it herself, so long as the right materials are available to her.

From that one question, she then was very interested in tipping 2 cups into one to give a new number. I may have encouraged her to keep the 10 cup in.

She also started writing random numbers (3 and 4 digits) and wanting to know how much they were. This got us talking about 1's, 10's and 100's and I used her curiosity to steer the direction back to looking at the 10's and more specifically what 1 group of 10 looks like, what 10 and x more looks like and what 2 groups of 10 looks like. 

I explained that once all of that made really good sense, that all the other numbers would be a lot easier to understand.

When we had two, 10 cups, she finally counted them all out using a single colour for each 10. Suddenly she found them even easier to group and count. I'm glad that she was able to find this out for herself rather than me telling her to do it.

She loves writing numbers! I think it makes her feel very clever and having the hundreds chart there for her to be able to see and use as she needed, made her feel confident about it.

Tipping two number cups into one another to create a teen number became all the activity was about to her in the end. Using one single colour in each cup really helped her visualise the difference and reinforce the concept that teen numbers are made up of one group of 10 and between 1-9 ones.


I did feel like I played quite a large role in making sure that we kept coming back to our focus of teen numbers. How "reggio-inspired" this is, I'm not really sure. From what I can make from my readings, each school, centre, teacher, etc. has to work out how it best works for them and their children.

When teaching in a mainstream school, I have certain expectations that I need to try and fulfil. These include particular outcomes for children, and whilst some areas are extremely easy to entice children into working in such a way that achieves certain learning, there are some areas that may not be so easy. 

I guess the way that I am trying to look at it is by knowing my children and their interests. By knowing their strengths and their weaknesses. By reflecting upon what they've enjoyed, how they work with certain things and how I can make lesser enjoyed subjects be something that they want to get involved in. 

I've always believed in making learning fun and enticing and hoped that even when explicitly teaching something, that it can be done in such a way that the child feels they are in control of it and that they want to learn and be involved.

I would like to find some more ways that she would naturally be needing to count or write about teen numbers. I think something role-play based (like a cafe or bakery) where I could order teen amounts of things could work well. A sweet shop! (she'd love that)


Free MAB Teen Number Cards

These days I'm back in the classroom (hence being too busy to update the blog), and lately we have been exploring teen numbers with my class of Preps (average age of 5-6). 

A common maths manipulative used in the classroom to teach place value is MAB blocks. 

To help reinforce the concept of teen numbers being made up of 1 group of ten and x amount of ones, I made the below teen number cards. 

I shared a pic of our teen number set-up on my instagram account and it turns out that there were some people that liked the cards and wanted a copy, so I've put them available here for you to download for free. Just click the picture below for the download.

Hope they're useful! Enjoy :)

More Teen Number Ideas:

Join us in a fortnight for another Exploring Reggio post and don't forget to check out all the other great activities from our co-hosts. Check them out via the links below.

If you missed our previous Exploring Reggio posts you can catch up on them here: 

Happy playing,
Debs :)

Look where else we are. Do you play with us here? :)