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Teaching Money Skills – Part 1 – Coin Counting Strategies

Teaching Money Skills – Part 1
Students must learn how to count money. It’s a basic life skill that every student needs for independence. Teaching money skills doesn’t have to be tough! Good scaffolding and outside the box strategies to the rescue!
Skip counting and working with coins can be easily worked into daily routines and stations. Maybe you’ll find that teaching money skills is one of your new favorite subjects to teach! So, without further ado – here’s how I teach basic money skills:

Build a Strong Foundation

Work on skip-counting – A LOT!

I start early in the year and I never stop. You can skip-count waiting in line to leave for recess. You can skip-count in the cafeteria line. It’s free and takes NO supplies or extra planning – it’s on-the-go teaching!

In my humble opinion, second and third graders should be practicing skip-counting daily. I feel that it’s a skill that’s ok to over-teach. Skip count by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and 25’s. Yes, my class skip-counts by 25’s. We say “25, 50, 75, 100 or one dollar.”
Skip-counting becomes multi-sensory when you incorporate more than one sense – such as sight (visual), hearing (auditory), touching (tactile), and moving (kinesthetic). To make a quick, easy game, have students toss a beach ball around and as each student catches the ball, he says the next number in the skip-counting series. Students can march in place, hop on one foot, and there are even songs on Youtube to get students up singing and dancing.
teaching money skills using a number line for skip counting
There are also TONS of activities that students can work on using number lines and hundreds charts. I encourage you to find some that will work for your situation. You can check out my blog post on Interactive Number Lines right here!
manipulatives for teaching money skills

Easy to make manipulatives – great for visual learners!

In addition to Number Lines, I like to relate money to already familiar Base Ten Blocks.


money manipulatives for money skills
I used a glue gun to attach the plastic coins to the base 10 blocks to give students a visual representation of how the coins relate to each other, and to numbers in general.
manipulatives and differentiation for money skills

Hands-on manipulatives – big bang learning for a low cost!

For an even better representation, I cut the base ten rod into five units (don’t tell my principal).

Coin Identification – Early Stage

Coin Sorting

Before students can count coins, they must first be able to tell them apart. Some struggling students have trouble distinguishing a nickel from a quarter, and they must be explicitly instructed on the differences.
Quarters are the largest coins* and they have ridges along the edge. Nickels are smaller and have smooth edges. I typically don’t spend much time going over the people and faces on the coins. My struggling students aren’t really able to notice those small differences and instead just see old fashioned men’s heads.
Just keep in mind, the new style nickels and quarters are a bit different with their images than the traditional coins. Some students may need to work with real money if they’re unable to transfer their learning from plastic/classroom quarters and nickels to real nickels and quarters that picture different state images on the backside rather than the eagle.
*Side note 1 – Of course Kennedy half dollars are bigger, but I don’t introduce those until much, much later because we don’t see those in real life very often. I totally ignore the half dollars until students are fluent with money skills.

Click on the photo for FREE Coin Sorting Mats!

Real money versus plastic/toy money may be an area that needs to be differentiated based on your learners.
Consider using real coins versus plastic “classroom” coins. I’ve had some students who are not able to see the plastic money the same way as the real money. They don’t feel the same, look the same, or weigh the same, and those students aren’t able to make the connection. On the other hand, I’ve had students who seem to see NO difference between plastic money and real money, and they are the ones who steal my plastic money to spend at Walmart.
Students usually enjoy making rubbings of the coins by putting a coin under a piece of paper and lightly rubbing the side of a crayon over it so that the picture shows up on the paper. I like to have students use different colors for the different coins, but that’s optional.
teaching money skills with interactive resources
As we study the rubbings, it’s important to point out the size differences and the different faces/images. However, students who don’t have good fine motor skills may struggle to keep their coins in place.
hands on learning for teaching money skills
This Coin Rubbing Booklet is for sale at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Super easy to make and interactive for students! Click here to view all of the money resources!

Click on the photo to visit the Teachers Pay Teachers website

Teaching basic money skills to students

How I Teach Basic Money Skills

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