Money, Money, Money, Money....MONEY!!!

Did you read that title the way I'm singing it right now?  
The O'Jays??  

So let's talk MONEY!!!

A few weeks ago I did a standards-based training that centered around teaching financial literacy concepts to our primary babies....first grade to be exact. Our district starts with introducing coins, identifying coins, and determining the value of a set of coins.  I felt like I needed to talk a bit about this concept before heading right into financial literacy because they piggyback off each other so beautifully.  SO, I wanted to give you some ideas that maybe you can incorporate into your instruction, too!  

I especially love the Welcome Books.  I like to read these books each day I introduce a new coin.  We talk about all of the characteristics of each coin and create these bubble maps.  

Once we introduce the coins and become familiar with their individual value, we start working with them through lots of different hands-on activities.  Sometimes I feel like we jump into the "DOING" so quickly that we often forget about the "THINKING".  We focus so much on the PRODUCT that we forget about the PROCESS.  

THINKING and PROCESS IS WHERE IT'S AT!!!!  Giving our kids opportunities to THINK about what they're doing and go through the PROCESS of thinking.  While the "doing" and the "product" have value as well, we really need to pay particular attention to the "thinking" and the "process".  We can learn so much about our kids through this!  

So let's talk about a few hands-on activities that engage our kids in thinking and process.  We're not just aimlessly giving them these activities so that they in turn can give us a product, rather we're engaging them in tangible activities that make them think!!!  

First up, let's talk bottle caps.  I drink A LOT of water (I recycle the bottles, so please don't throw stones ;)).  I have a weird tendency to save the caps because isn't that what teachers do?!  Save what everyone else throws away?!  All that to be said, that's what you'll need for this activity.  As many or few as you deem necessary.  You'll also need a set of coin stickers.  These are my favorite.

Now all you'll need to do is adhere the stickers to the tops of the bottle caps.  You can even use a Sharpie on the underside of the cap to label the value of each coin (if you want this to be a self-checking activity...a great option to give our reluctant risk takers reassurance and our struggling learners a way to check their thinking).

SO how can these be used for learning?!  Well let me share a few ways we can take one idea and differentiate it to meet the needs of the various learning abilities in our classes.  


Place the coin bottle caps in a large container bucket.  Prompt students to reach in the container/bucket and grab a handful.  Students can sort the caps by coin (penny/nickel/dime/quarter),tally the amount in each set, and then graph.  As an added challenge, prompt students to identify the value of each set in their grab.  How much is the total value of pennies you grabbed?  How much is the total value of nickels?? Dimes?  Quarters??  How much is the TOTAL VALUE of coins altogether?
Of course, if your students aren't ready to find the value of a set of coins, they can simply identify, sort, tally, and graph.

Have y'all seen these at the Dollar Tree?!?!  They're bag clips!!!  And precious ones at that.  
Of course, my teacher brain immediately went to comparing numbers.  These come in a set of three and, of course, are only $1.  Naturally I needed ALL of them, LOL!!!  

I brought them home and used them for this variation on the bottle cap counting.


Prompt students to reach into the coin cap bucket/container and grab a handful of coins.  Count the coins in the set to determine the total value.  Now grab ANOTHER handful of coins, count them, and find the total value.  Use the alligator clip (or a simple index card labeled with the greater than/less than symbol) to determine the set with the greater value.

This would be a great partner game.  Partner 1 grabs, counts, and finds the total value.  Partner 2 grabs, counts, and finds the total value.  Partners compare their total values and determine who has the set of coins with the greatest value.  The partner with the greatest amount wins the round.  You can determine how many rounds each set of partners can play.  The partner who wins the MOST rounds, wins the game.  Fun and meaningful.   Our kids have a great time "playing" while practicing important standards-based skills and making meaningful connections to learning in the process.

Now keep out your stickers and grab a stash of craft sticks!!!  Let's do a little DIY to make learning hands-on and FUN!

This activity is SUPER simple to make.  Again, you'll need a set of craft sticks, coin stickers, and a blank set of round stickers (garage sale dots).

Basically, you'll just adhere a set of coin stickers to the craft sticks.  Any amount is fine, just so long as you leave space on the opposite end of the stick to adhere the garage sale dot.  I'm hoping that makes sense, LOL!!!  Label the garage sale dot with a coin amount. Make sure to adhere a matching amount of coin stickers to a different stick so that you can match the  $ label to the coin stickers.  This is played just like the game of dominoes, but with coins.  I would recommend using the large craft sticks.  THe stickers will still slightly go past the edges, but they work great!  

This makes a great small group or independent activity (<----especially fast finishers!!!!)

Once the novelty of the dominoes wears off, repurpose those same sticks for a completely different activity, but still focusing on the same concept. 

Place the coin sticks in a container (Crystal Light containers are PERFECT for this!!!).  Now prompt your students go grab a die and roll.  Students will grab a matching amount of coin sticks.  (If student rolls a 5, he will grab 5 coin sticks).  

Students can use the sticks they grab for a couple of different activities.  

Idea #1 --->  Prompt students to count up the value of each coin and then place the sticks in order from the least to the greatest or greatest to least.

Idea #2 ----->  Prompt students to find the TOTAL VALUE of all sticks combined.  

Idea #3 (see below)

Have students roll the die and collect a matching amount of sticks and then find the total value.  Set aside.  Roll the die again, count out a matching set of coin sticks, and find the total value.  Now take one of those bag clips I showed you earlier and use it to compare the sets.  Which set of coins has the greater total value?  Least?  

This would also be a great partner game.  Roll, collect, find the total value.  Which partner has the greatest total value?  Super simple and easy!  To make this a more successful independent activity, you can use a Sharpie to write the total value on the back of each stick. 

Let's keep out those craft sticks for another fun counting activity.  This one was inspired by Denise Boehm at Sunny in Second Grade.  I've always loved her Popsicle Place Value activity and have used it in my classroom for several years now.  This is almost the exact same concept, but this activity incorporates coins.

Grab a set of 10 craft sticks.  On five of the craft sticks, draw ten dots on one side and one dot on the other side.  On the other five of the craft sticks, draw five dots on one side and one dot on the other side.  SO, you will have a set of 10 sticks total...five sticks will have ten dots on one side and one on the other and five sticks will have five dots on one side and one dot on the other (see the top left picture).  

Place the sticks in a container  (again, a Crystal Light container would be perfect for this!!!).  Prompt students to shake the container and then spill, pouring out all of the sticks.  The sticks will fall where they may.  Some sticks will land on the side with ten dots, some with five dots, and the others will land on the side with one dot.  Prompt students to sort accordingly (again, refer to the top left pic).  

NOW...prompt students to match the dot amount to the coin amount. Make sure you have a set of coin manipulatives on hand for this activity!!!!!!  (I will link to my favorite after I explain.)  As you can see in the bottom left picture, there are two sticks with 10 dots, so we matched those two sticks to two dimes.  There are five sticks with five dots, so we matched each one to a nickel.  Then there are three sticks with one dot each, so we matched those to one penny each.  

NOW...we can trade some of these coins in, right?!  RIGHT!!! (top right picture)
We'll keep the two dimes.
We have 5 nickels, so we can trade some of them in for dimes.  We can trade in four nickels for two dimes.  Now we have four dimes altogether and one nickel.
We'll keep the pennies, too.

Let's go a further.
We can combine the two dimes and the nickel to give us 25 cents.  Let's trade those in for a quarter.  
We'll keep the two dimes and the three pennies.
What's our total amount?!  

This is a GREAT small group activity!  It could even be done in a whole group setting with you as the moderator thinking aloud as you demonstrate the trade-in process.  You might even consider displaying this on the white board through your document camera so that you can insure that all of your kids can see exactly what you're doing as you think aloud and talk through the process.

Whew!!!  Lots of fun!!!!

Now here are the coins I mentioned earlier.  These are my absolute FAVORITE!!!!  I love them because they don't have COPY written across them, they're life-sized, and they "feel" like real money.  

Not only do I use these for manipulatives, but I have extra sets I use for our favorite small group coin counting game...BANKRUPT!!!!

You'll need craft sticks, coin manipulatives, hot glue, and a sharpie.  

Hot glue a set of coin manipulatives to a craft stick.  You determine how many/total value/etc.  There's really no rhyme or reason. Whatever fits, LOL!  I like to glue my coins on the sticks the same way I teach my kids to count them...I start with the coins with the greatest value and descend to the least.  Now label a set of craft sticks with the word BANKRUPT!  Place all the sticks in a container.

If you're familiar with the sight word game BANG!, then you already know how this is played.

Starting clockwise, prompt the first player to reach into the container, grab a stick, and identify the total value.  If he is able to correctly identify the total value of the coins on the stick, he keeps the stick.  If not, the stick returns to the container.  Now move onto the next player and the next giving them each a turn to identify the total amount of coins on the sticks.  

If the player pulls a BANKRUPT stick, he has to return ALL of his sticks back to the container. The player with the most sticks at the end of the game, wins!  (You determine how long you play :))

Now how's that for lots of DIY coin counting activities?!  I really do hope you can use them in your classroom!  If you're looking for more coin counting activities, I just released a supplemental Coin Counting resource.

Here's a PREVIEW of what's included...

And if you're looking for a few more supplemental coin counting resources, here are my most favorites!

Check back tomorrow because I'll be sharing LOTS more ideas to help you kick off your Financial Literacy unit!!!  Some great, hands-on, engaging activities...mentor texts...and lots more!!!  Even if this is a unit you've already covered this year, the activities I'm going to share would be great for reinforcement and review or even just to keep in your file for next year :)  

In the meantime, you can also check out my newest Financial Literacy resource just released today!

Hope you're having a GREAT day!!!!  


  1. Great ideas! I never thought of using bottle caps for teaching money. Genius! Teaching money in 2nd grade is never any fun but your ideas will save the day. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Brrrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillllliant! Fabulous ideas and the Popsicle dot activity is awesome!


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