Counting Money: Math Lesson Plans and Teaching Strategies

Most students will learn about counting money in second grade. Probably no student has ever said, 'Why do we have to learn THAT?' about this math concept. It is obvious that counting money is a part of everyday life for almost everyone beginning at a fairly early age.

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Strategies and Lessons for Counting Money

Lesson Plan Objectives

Lesson plan objectives vary according to the age of the students and how many days are allotted for learning to count money. Depending on the designated amount of time for lessons, the following objectives may each be a single lesson or more may be combined for one lesson.

  1. Students can tell the difference between different kinds of coins.
  2. Students will be able to tell the value of a coin when they see it.
  3. Students will be able to find one or more ways to use coins to demonstrate an amount of money.
  4. In a playing store situation, students will be able to count the correct amount of money to pay for several items.
  5. Students will be able to write amounts of money using the dollar sign ($) and the cent sign (¢).

Lesson Plan Strategies

Read a book or poem, such as
Smart by Shel Silverstein
The Penny Pot by Stuart J. Murphy
Will Jones' Space Adventures and the Money Formula by Christine Thompson-Wells
Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday by Judith Viorst
Watch a DVD, such as
Rock 'N Learn: Money & Making Change with Vic Mignogna and Luci Christian
Munchkin Math: Counting Money with Wendy Miller
Money Matter$ with puppets and animated characters.
Use real money
Give each student a baggy containing different amounts of money. Identify each student by the amount of money in his or her baggy. Then, for example, ask for '10¢' to stand up and tell the group about himself or herself. Every day, each child is given a different baggy.
Alternatively, give each child a baggy with different amounts of coins in it. The students then count the coins and tell the class how many of each kind of coins are in the baggy and what the total amount is. As each student reports the information, draw circles with a one, five, ten or 25 on it to represent the coins and have the class double-check the total given by the student.
Pile of coins
Have a number of coins in a pile. As each child takes a turn, allow him or her to feel each kind of coin to see what it feels like. Then put a blindfold on the child and tell him or her to find a dime, or to find 10¢.
Money calendar
Put up a large calendar in the room. Each day, draw or tape pictures of coins on the calendar to equal the date. Thus, for the first day of the month you would have a picture of a penny. On the 25th day of the month, the picture of a quarter would be used. Alternatively, you could choose to use combinations of other coins, depending on how advanced your students are.
Money exchange game
Establish a classroom 'bank' that has a variety of play coins in it. You might prefer to have several banks so that four or five children can play the game together. The students take turns throwing a die. They take as many pennies from the bank as the number showing on the die. When they have five or more pennies they can exchange five pennies for a nickel; when they have two or more nickels they can exchange two nickels for a dime, and so on. The game can go on until the bank is empty or until the teacher calls time.
Play store
Have a classroom grocery store or garage sale. If you choose to do the grocery store you can use empty cartons, cans and jars of real food or pictures from magazines. If you have a garage sale, ask parents to send small, inexpensive things to school to be sold. You will want to have a lot of items available - probably five or six items for each student in the class.

It is often best to mark the items in amounts ending in a zero or a five. This will help with skip counting the money. ('Skip counting' is beginning a count by a number other than one, such as '2, 4, 6, 8'.)

Each student is told he can spend up to $1 (or whatever amount works best with how advanced your class is in counting money) and he or she can buy up to three items. As students choose their items, they pay for each item from a baggie of play money. The activity ends when they have spent their dollar or don't have enough left to buy anything more.

To keep order, you may want to only allow a few students at the sales table at a time. In the case of the garage sale, students get to keep the items; in the case of a grocery store, it's a good idea to keep the items for future store days.
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