How to Teach Teen Numbers in Kindergarten and First Grade

March 14, 2022

In this blog post, I share some easy tips and activities for teaching teen numbers in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms. The numbers 11-20 are a big number sense skill that is usually focused on in school at the end of the kindergarten year and the beginning of first grade. I wanted to share these activities that are simple and engaging for students, and I even share a freebie with you at the end!


Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:

If you want to read this information instead, just keep scrolling!


Tip #1: Use a 10 Frame or Base 10 Blocks

This is more of a tip than an activity, but I highly recommend using either a 10 frame or base 10 blocks when introducing teen numbers to your kindergarten and first-grade students. You want to make sure your students understand that the 1 at the beginning of teen numbers is not just a 1, but that it has a value of 10. For example, they should be able to recognize when looking at it that the number 15 is 10 plus 5 ones. Using a manipulative like a 10 frame or base 10 blocks helps create this visual while also giving your students a hands-on approach to understanding the teen numbers. 

To bring this activity to your classroom, you can give each of your students a sheet with a 10 frame. You will say a teen number out loud and have your students use a manipulative to physically make the number on their board. For example, if you give them the number “13”, your students will go ahead and put one counter in each box in the 10-frame first, then they will add the last three counters below. This creates a visual of “10 plus 3 ones”. 

You can also do this activity using base 10 blocks or connecting cubes. Make sure your students are physically connecting the cubes when they reach 10, or trading in their 10 individual cubes for a rod. Again, this is to emphasize the visual of “10 plus 3 ones” when they are looking at teen numbers.

Once your students start to show an understanding of teen numbers while doing this activity as a whole group exercise, I recommend moving this into an easy independent or partner center. An independent center I have in my SJT Math Club is called “Teen Number Build and Write” (shown above).

In this activity, students will flip a teen card and then build it on their mat using either connecting cubes or rods. After building the number, they would write the equation underneath. So, if they flipped a 14, students would place a 10 rod in the tens column and 4 individual cubes in the ones column on their mat. Underneath it, they would fill in the equation that they created: “10 + 4 = 14”. Adding the equation to the exercise adds an extra layer to this activity by showing the value of teen numbers in another form to really emphasize our main teaching point for this skill.

You can find this independent center along with plenty of others by joining my SJT Math Club here: SJT Math Club


Tip #2: Mystery Number Showdown

Another activity I like for teaching teen numbers is called mystery number showdown! All students need to play Mystery Number Showdown is their own mini whiteboard and a dry-erase marker. You will think of a teen number then give your students clues to determine what mystery number you are thinking of. For example, without saying the number 13, you could give your class the following clues to figure it out:

“This number is greater than 12, but less than 15”

They will be able to narrow it down and know that it could be one of two numbers: 13 or 14. Then you will give them the second clue.

“This teen number is odd”

If they have learned even and odd numbers already, then they should be able to guess 13. The clues in Mystery Number Showdown are also a good opportunity for you to incorporate other skills you have been working on into the lesson.

Once your students think they know what the number is, they will each write down their guesses on their whiteboards. Then you can count down and say “3..2..1.. SHOWDOWN” and have everyone flip their boards over at the same time. This is a fun activity for your students to work on teen numbers and it also allows you to look around the room and get an assessment of how well they are understanding the skill and identify students who may need extra help.


Tip #3: Take, Make, & Tally!

Another fun activity for students to make and understand teen numbers is called Take, Make, & Tally! This is an activity that your students can play either independently or in a group.

To start, you are going to put 20 cubes in a brown paper bag. Your students will close their eyes and take a bunch of the cubes out of the bag. Then, they will count the cubes by connecting the first 10 and lining up the rest of the individual cubes next to it to show “10 plus x ones”. If you don’t have cubes, you can use erasers, bears, counters, or any other manipulatives that you have and count them in a 10 frame.

After your students take the cubes and make the number with their manipulatives, they are going to tally what number they made on their Take, Make, & Tally worksheet. You can have your students put the cubes back in their bags and keep repeating this until one of their columns has reached five tallies.

Note: Since this is a teen number activity, I always instruct my students to take a second draw if they start to count their cubes and realize that their first draw was too small. 

I love using games in the classroom, especially for math skills. This game in particular is great because there are several different skills at play. Not only do students have to count the manipulatives, they have to build the cubes or fill a 10 frame to identify tens and ones, and they also have to identify the number on their tally sheet. 

Freebie Alert: I made this Take, Make, & Tally worksheet free for you to play with your students. You can grab it here: Teen Number Free Game: Take, Make, & Tally!


So there are three of my favorite tips and activities for teaching students all about those teen numbers! If you liked this post, you will probably like some of these other ones below:

– Fact Fluency Tips & Activities for K-2 Students

– Place Value Games for the Classroom

– How to teach Addition in Kindergarten


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