A guide to teaching money and coins in grades K-2: Find ideas, activities, tools, games, and books to make your lessons effective and fun.
Lessons and Activities for Teaching Money and Coins to Kids
Are you teaching or interacting with young children? Then chances are you are teaching money! Kids are naturally curious about coins and bills and how to use them.
Below are ideas to help you teach these valuable concepts. Begin with introducing the basic idea of what we need money for, then move to identify coins and bills. After, teach kids how to count money and how to interact with money in the real world. Let this post be your guide for teaching money to kids!
You will also find a list of useful manipulatives and tools that make learning this math concept hands-on and student-centered. There is also a list of children’s books and helpful resources to guide you in planning your money unit teach. Let the planning begin!
Activities and Methods for Teaching Money and Coins
General Concept of Currency
In the beginning, kids need to understand the general concept of currency and its importance in our daily lives. The first thing kids must understand is why we have money. Here are some ideas to get kids to see the broader concept behind currency and how it works.
- Hold a barter day – have kids bring in a cheap item or two and allow them to barter with each other to obtain another object from someone else in the class.
- Goods and Services – Explore the idea of goods/services by having kids categorize pictures according to whether it shows a thing or a service being performed. Show kids that there are different ways to spend money and the relative value of each good or service.
- Needs and Wants – Discuss what the difference is between wants and needs. Give kids cards with a picture on them and let them decide if the object is a need or a desire. Allow them to defend their answer, if it is not an obvious one, for some lively discussion!
Identify and Describe Money and Coins
Being able to identify coins by name and value is obviously an important skill to have. Here are some simple ways to reinforce learning to identify coins.
- Visual Examples – Let kids interact with and hold in their hands larger than life bills and coins. These manipulatives help them to become familiar with them. For example, these are magnetic so that the kids can use them in a variety of ways.
- Sorting – Place a sectioned vegetable tray on the table with coins in the middle. Label one section “pennies,” another “nickels,” and so on. Have the kids sort the coins into the appropriate section. Grab a free printable sorting coin mat below!
- Coin Rubbings – Make coin rubbings by placing coins under paper and using a colored pencil to produce the image on the paper. Then kids can match actual coins to the rubbings.
- Flip a Coin Game – Create a coin toss graph by recording how many heads and tails occur in a specified number of tosses. Use different coins! This activity can familiarize the kids with the specific pictures on the coins.
- Video – Watch this fun video from NUMBEROCK about coins and their values.
Count, Represent and Order Money Amounts
Once kids can identify coins and know their value, they can start to add money. There are many ways to practice.
- Bingo – Make it fun with BINGO! Kids will love competing with this Money BINGO game that challenges them to count the coins as you call the totals.
- Counting by increments – Have students learn to count coins by reviewing how to count by 1’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 25’s. They can demonstrate this knowledge on printable resource sheets.
- Plastic Cups – Use plastic cups, readily available and relatively inexpensive, to provide hands-on practice. Write prices on the fronts of plastic cups and then let students place the correct change in each one.
- Hide and Seek – Play with coins! An adult hides them around the classroom. Then, the kids look for and collect the coins. When they find them, they must add to find their total. You could offer a prize to the winner with the most money, or for accurate counting, or for who found the most quarters, etc.
- Coin Counting Story Problems – Give kids cards with stories involving money and have them work together to come up with the answers.
- Coin Caterpillar – Create a coin caterpillar by lining up coins, and tracing them on paper to look like a caterpillar. Let the kids count them and write down the total value of their caterpillar.
Financial Transactions & Literacy
If kids can count money, it is time to put that skill to action and see how this plays out in a more “real world” situation. Below are a few ideas of ways to make the monetary system more alive to the students.
- Board Games – Play Monopoly, Jr. Let kids have fun while learning to manage their money and making wise decisions. This easier version of the original game is suitable for ages five and up.
- Play Pretend – Create a learning center set up as a grocery store or other store. Let kids play with a pretend cash register and pretend money.
- Let them “Shop” as a reward- Have a clear jar for each child and let them earn coins and dollars. When their jar is full, they get to “shop” at a class store to buy something as a reward for their work.
- Value of Real-Life Products – Give each child a specified amount of money and let them “go shopping” by looking through store flyers and choosing things to buy.
- Add and Subtract with Word Problems – Students view a story about an exchange of money and answer the question, giving them practice in understanding how to add and subtract money.
If you’re looking for an alternative way for kids to practice measurement, there are a ton of resources online! These math websites allow kids to practice (and master) math concepts, including measurement.
Children’s Books about Money
Use these great books for kids to teach money and its value. These would make a great addition to your classroom library. Pull them out for your math lessons!
- One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money by Bonnie Worth – This book is great for giving kids a broad concept of money, including its history. It is written in catchy, Dr. Seuss style.
- Lots and Lots of Coins by Margarette Reid – This book introduces kids to the history of currency in a way that is easy for them to grasp.
- A Dollar, A Penny, How Much, and How Many by Brian P. Cleary – Cats make learning about money fun in this book about coins and bills. Kids will enjoy the catchy rhymes and goofy pictures.
- The Coin Counting Book by Rozanne Lanczak Williams – This book provides a straightforward approach to identifying and adding coins.
- The Penny Pot by Stuart J. Murphy – Kids learn to count money at a face-painting booth.
- The Berenstain Bears: Trouble With Money by Stan and Jan Berenstain – Brother and Sister Bear learn about managing money in this classic book.
- Deena’s Lucky Penny: Money by Barbara deRubertis – Kids will get to see the practical application of money when Deena needs to get a birthday gift for her mother.
- The Great Pet Sale by Mick Inkpen – Kids explore simple addition with pennies through imagining themselves at a giant pet sale!
- You Can’t Buy a Dinosaur with a Dime by Harriet Ziefert – Help Pete problem solve with his money as he decides what to spend his allowance on.
- Pigs Will Be Pigs: Fun With Math and Money by Amy Axelrod – The pig family must collect and count all of their money to have enough to go out to eat for dinner.
Resources for Teaching Money and Coins
Check out the Mindful Math resources that contain nearly everything you need to create a comprehensive unit on money for both 1st and 2nd grade! You will find so many resources here (including a Canadian version).
Click the images above to visit the unit that has the activity seen in the photo. Find out why teachers love the Mindful Math program for Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade.
- Graphing, Money and Financial Literacy- First Grade Mindful Math
- Money to 500¢ (coins & bills)- Second Grade Mindful Math
What Teachers are Saying About Mindful Math Money Units
Excellent plans and resources for money! None of this was in our given curriculum so it was awesome to expand on the topic!
~ Katie W.
I absolutely loved this resource. I’ve purchased many math units on TPT and this is one of my favourites. I especially appreciate the Canadian content (even spelling), as I am a Canadian teacher. I look forward to purchasing more of your units!
~ Kim H.
Grab a FREE Coin Sorting Activity
Grab your free copy of the Coin Sorting Mat by clicking the image below and signing up!
Hands-On Tools for Teaching Money
Every teacher knows that any opportunity to teach with hands-on materials is beneficial for the many types of learners in the classroom. Here are a few favorites from teachers in classrooms just like yours.
- Pretend Money – There are so many ways to use this play money. Letting the kids interact with it helps improve their skill level.
- Laminated Money Chart – This is a handy reference to have available for kids to see throughout the day.
- Money Match Me Cards – Let kids make matching coins and totals into a game!
- Money and Time Learning Mats – These handy learning mats come with activity ideas.
- Cash Register – Can be used for kids to practice making change
- Learning Resources Money Activity Set – This set contains useful things to help make learning about money fun.
- Money Bags Coin Value Game – Use this board game as a fun way for kids to practice money while enjoying a competitive game.
- Buy it Right Shopping Game – another board game that simulates the shopping experience and lets kids count their money to buy products.
- Exact Change Card Game – Similar to UNO in a way, this card game helps kids calculate the value of money in their heads to make matches to win.
- Pretend to Spend Wallet – Place these in a learning center set up as a storefront, and watch the pretend play teach your kids.
When you use any of the above methods for teaching money and coins, you’ll ensure success with all the learners in your classroom. Let me know in the comments how you’ve used these or other ideas!
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