Desmos Marbleslides: 10 Frame Addition


Many many months ago, I saw an intriguing tweet. Kristin, @mathminds, had made a Desmos AB focused on 10 Frames and was inquiring about the possibility of an interactive one. Challenge excepted.  I viewed her inquiry as a chance to broaden my skills while providing a service.

After a few interactions with Kristin, I gathered enough information to begin, however without a way to count the number of dots within the frame, I couldn’t finish.  Thanks go out to Luke Walsh, @lukeselfwalker, who gave me the counting method needed to complete the activity. Here’s the AB:  Exploration: 10 Frame Addition.

I like giving students time to explore, observe and discuss what they notice AND I like having specific tasks for students to complete. Exploration: 10 Frame Addition, addresses the exploration.  My field trip to kindergarten provided the experience needed to build the challenge based activity, Marbleslides: 10 Frame Addition


Jenn working on the Prowise computer

Working on the Prowise touchscreen


Field Testing

Picture of Camille and Jenn VadnaisBeing a middle level teacher for over 20 years, I’m solid with grades 6 – 8.  Primary grades, especially k- 2, are a mystery.  It was time to head to kindergarten and conduct some research.

I partnered with Jen (elementary math TOA ) and Camille (kindergarten teacher).  We split the class in half.  Jen and I worked with one group and Camille the other.  Then after 25 minutes, we switched.  Students scanned QR codes on their tablets to reach the website,, easily



Expected Outcomes

  • The zoom feature caused a learning curve.
  • Once students learned how to navigate the zoom feature, they enjoyed moving the dots and creating number sentences.
  • They were eager to share their number sentences.
  • They were able to find more than one number sentence for a specific number.
    • 4 + 4 = 8
    • 2 + 6 + 8
  • Camille wanted an activity that would provide immediate feedback for students

Unexpected OutcomesTwo 10-frames displaying the number sentence, 6 + 1 = 7

  • One excited student, showed me his example.  When asked to read his number sentence,  he said, “3 + 3 + 1 = 7”. His response caused a flood of observations and questions.
    • He was only focused on the dots, not the symbols.  Who else is doing this?
    • Where there other students who focused only on the numbers & not the dots?
    • Which students are connecting the dots and the numbers?
    • What questions can I ask to help students connect dots and numbers?
    • He’s not subitizing the number 6.  Who else is not subitizing larger numbers?
  • When a second student showed me his tablet and joyfully said, “2 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 7”, I knew I needed to formulate follow up questions.
  • Two 10 frames showing the equation, 5 + 2 = 7


Follow up Questions

Although asking questions is a favorite strategy of mine, I felt unprepared when responding to kindergarten students.  This experience caused me to reflect on my interactions with students and develop a line of questioning that would benefit both students and teachers.   Here are a few possible follow up questions.

If a students says, “6 + 1 = 7”

  • Will you show me your 6 dots?Two 10-frames displaying the number sentence, 6 + 1 = 7
  • How do you know that group of dots is 6?
  • Will you point to the symbol 6?
  • Where is your 1?
  • Explain how to make 7?

If a students says, “3 + 3 + 1 = 7”

  • Will you show my your groups of 3?
  • Will you count all of those dots for me?
  • What do your 2 groups of 3 make?
  • Will you point to the symbol 6?
  • Where is your 1?
  • Explain how you know the dots make 7?



Closing Thoughts

I’ve come to rely on field testing my activities – especially when I hit designer’s block. By highlighting areas of need, my kindergarten experience gave me the direction I was looking for.  I had to address the zooming action and create an age appropriate challenge based activity that incorporated immediate feedback.  My observations and conversations with students guided my future design plans.

Desmos’ marbleslide lab technology addressed all my design needs.  Marbleslides uses a fixed screen which fixed the zoom issue.   If the launched purple marble passes through the stars, then that trial is successful.  Therefore the marbleslide technology allowed me to create challenges that could be immediately checked by launching the purple marbles.

Teacher tip:  Camille requires her kinders to record their number sentences on a separate sheet of paper to draws their attention to corresponding symbols.

Desmos Activity Builder 1:  Kindergarten: Making 10 with Ten Frames

Desmos Activity Builder 2:  Exploration: 10 Frame Addition

Desmos Activity Builder 3: Marbleslides: 10 Frame Addition




About jgvadnais

Instructional Technology Coach. Desmos Fellow. Google Level 1 Certified. SoCal transplant. New Englander at heart. Lover of yoga, dogs, green smoothies and coffee creamer
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