These activities will give students many opportunities to practice and model strategies that help them count money.
It Makes $ents to Trade
Passing the Buck
- The Money Tree, by Sarah Stewart; ISBN: 0-374-45295-4
- Money, Money, Honey Bunny! by Marilyn Sadler; ISBN: 0-375-83370-6
- Round and Round the Money Goes, by Melvin and Gilda Berger; ISBN: 0-8249-5310-X
- The Case of the Shrunken Allowance, by Joanne Rocklin; ISBN: 0-590-12006-9
- Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday, by Judith Viorst; ISBN: 0-689-71199-9
- The Coin Counting Book, by Rozanne Lanczak Williams; ISBN: 0-88106-326-6
- Once Upon a Dime, by Nancy Kelly Ann; ISBN: 1-57091-161-4
- The Go-Around Dollar, by Barbara Johnston Adams; ISBN: 0-02-700031-1
- If You Made a Million, by David M. Schwartz; ISBN: 0-590-43608-2
- Penny Pot, by Stuart J. Murphy; ISBN: 978-0-06-446717-9
- The Big Buck Adventure, by Shelley Gill and Deborah Tobola; ISBN: 0-439-49150-9
- Carnival Countdown computer game; ISBN: 0-15-307966-5
Background for Teachers
Games are a way to review and practice important mathematical
concepts while having fun. Games are real world problem solving.
They also teach important life skills. Many students lack the
opportunity to develop these skills. Many life skills like learning to get
along with others, learning to win/lose gracefully, deciding who will go
first (decision making), finding winning strategies (logical thinking),
learning to follow the rules, and valuing fair play are what can be
learned and gained from playing games.
This lesson is made up of several activities that will give students
many opportunities to practice and model strategies that help them
count money. It is assumed that students will know the names and
values of the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter before participating in
Note: This activity may take two days.
Intended Learning Outcomes
5. Understand and use basic concepts and skills.
Invitation to Learn
Ask students if they have ever been shopping with their parents.
Have they ever peeked over the counter and looked into the cash
drawer that comes open when they are ready to pay for their
purchases? What do they see? Then discuss how the money is in cash
- Read the story, The Penny Pot, as you read talk about the coins
that are used each time and how much they are worth. Give the
students each a mixed bag of plastic coins containing pennies,
nickels, dimes, and quarters. Have the students put them into
cash drawer order. Reread the story and have students pull out
coins from their cash drawer to match the story and count them
up as a classas they do in the story
- Talk about if it is necessary to use money in everyday situations.
Ask the students if they think it is important to use money in
everyday situations. Talk about how the students in the story
counted on to know their total.
- Model counting on for the students. Have them help you count
on from the coin that is worth the most and count on. Start
with a quarter and a dime to show how to count on by tens.
Practice with the students as much as necessary until they feel
confident at counting on by tens. Next, count a quarter and
a nickel to show how to count on by fives. Again, give them
additional practice, as you feel necessary. Each student has a
bag of coins (each bag has a different collection of coins that
are less than one dollar). Have them sort the coins into cash
drawer order. Put on the coin chart to organize. Partner the
students up and have them take turns and repeat the process
of counting on.
It Makes $ents to Trade
- Group students into pairs.
- Give each student a die, a money bag (or container of coins),
and an It Makes $ense to Trade Money Chart.
- The first player rolls the die and takes that many pennies, places
them in the pennies column on the money chart, and states how
much they have. Players take turns.
- On the next turn, before rolling the die, the player must re-
state how much money he/she has, roll, take that many more
pennies and states the new amount. If he/she can trade up for
nickels. Have student recall out loud what amount is being
traded and what the amount is being traded for. Make sure the
partner checks their work. Play continues trading up when
possible until the first player reaches 25 cents. After each pair
has met 25 cents, the value to be reached can be changed. The
value needed to win can vary up to one dollar depending on the
- Group students into pairs.
- Give each pair of students a container of coins and a small
scoop. Each student needs an It Makes $ense to Trade Money
Chart. Have each student scoop out some coins and sort them
onto their chart, count up their total amount, and record it on
their It Makes $ense to Trade Recording Sheet (their blank sheet of
paper). This can also be done individually. Students deposit their
scoop back in to the container and get another scoop, repeating
the process 10 times for practice.
- After allowing sufficient time for practice, have students
scoop out a specified amount such as 53 cents. Observe what
coins students have scooped out and comment on different
combinations you observed being used. Encourage students to
replace their coins with other coins that would make the same
amount. Ask if there are any coins that they could trade.
Option: You could then have students fold a piece of paper in half
to make two columns. Have the students scoop out some coins, draw
the coins, and write the amount in the first column. Then have the
students trade to make the fewest coins possible to make the same
amount. The students draw the new coins in the second column. This
could be used as an assessment.
Passing the Buck
Passing the Buck can be broken into two or more sessions.
- Read the story, The BIG BUCK Adventure. Ask the students
what they would buy with a dollar. Discuss what they would
like and if they would have enough money. Make a class list
of items to buy. Tell the students that they are going to go
shopping and are going to need to see if they have enough in
their money wallets to buy the necessary items.
Passing the Buck can be broken into two or more sessions. Put students into small groups and give each student a money
wallet that contains plastic coin packets adding up to various
amounts up to one dollar and a Passing the Buck Recording Sheet.
Tell the students to count up the money in the wallet and write
the total amount on their recording sheet next to the number
that is the same as the number written on the money wallets.
Have students pass the money wallet to the person on their
right. Have them do 10 money wallets.
Variation: Have students compare two wallets and ask
questions such as: Which has more? How much more? Can
you show that same amount in a different way?
- Use a number chart and coins to place on the number chart for
students who cannot grasp the concept of counting on. Tell
the student the coins to use and teach them to put the coin that
is worth the most on that number (i.e., a quarter on 25) then
ask them to use a dime and show them how to count on from
25 ten more numbers and put the dime on 35. Do the same
with nickels. Practice counting on with dimes and nickels from
different amounts. Having the student physically count and
put the coin on their chart helps them to make a better
connection of the counting on strategy. (Inclusion)
- Have the student show and draw different combinations of the
same amount. Talk about how they figured it out. Once they
understand the way to count on then work with them to draw
the same amount with fewer coins. (Inclusion and Adaptation)
- Put students into pairs. Have them sit back to back. One
partner takes some coins and tells how much money and how
many coins he/she has. The other partner has to guess which
coins the first person has. Take turns doing the activity.
- In the CORE Academy 2005, the book, The Name Jar, was read
and then the students were to determine the price of someones
name. Use this same activity to buy items or words of interest
to the students or to connect with other content that is being
taught at the current time in the classroom.
- Cut out items out of the newspaper and together put a price on
the pictures. Have students use play money or draw what coins
they would use to buy the item.
- Show your student a certain amount and have them show you
the same amount using different coin collections. Start with
something simple like a quarter and work up to other amounts.
- Have student count the loose change that is in your wallet or
pocket or in the laundry room.
- To obtain a formal assessment, use the money clips and the
recording sheets to see where the students are and help guide
your teaching to the differentiated learning that is taking place
in the classroom setting.
- Have students draw the money that they scoop out and label it
to check for understanding of the coins individual worth. Then
ask them to count it up and write the total amount.
- On index cards, write different money amounts up to one
dollar. Have students show you the amount with coins, then
draw the amount of coins, show the same amount with fewer
coins, and then write the amount in words (like 57 centswith
the cent sign). This could be done in a center.
- Have containers or cups on the students desk to collect play
money in. Allow students to earn coins for different things
all week long. Have a class store where students can buy
different items (e.g., tootsie rolls, fruit snacks, pencils, books
from book orders, any teacher junk that is collected). Students
have to count out the exact amount for the items they are
- Play the game I Have, Who Haspdf for an observational assessment.
Caine, R.N., & Caine, G. (1994). Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain.
Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley.
Learning from classroom activities with application to real world
situations are the lessons students seem to learn from and appreciate
the most. Brain research shows the more senses used in instruction,
the better learners will be able to remember, retrieve, and connect
the information in their memories. I hear and I forget; I see and I
remember; I do and I understand. Students learn best when doing.
By incorporating realistic, integrated, or interdisciplinary activities that
build on established knowledge and skills and more than one sense,
memory pathways become more accessible and cross-referenced for future use. As teachers discover the most effective strategies for better
student achievement, they can adapt their lessons accordingly.
Carpenter, T.P., Frank, M.L., Jacobs, V.R., Fennema, E., & Empson, S.B. (1999). Childrens
Mathematics: Cognitively Guided Instruction, Heinemann, Portsmouth, NH. 28, 41.
Counting strategies follow the mastering of direct modeling
strategies and allow the student to develop more into efficient
procedures for calculating answers to addition and subtraction
problems. Using counting strategies indicates a level of understanding
of number concepts and an ability to reflect on numbers as abstract
entities, particularly coins. Skip counting is one of the counting
strategies that students use when counting coins and locating a sum.