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Teaching Money Skills – Part 1 – Coin Counting Strategies

Teaching Money Skills – Part 1
image of coin and money manipulatives for teaching students

Teaching students how to count money is a crucial life skill that every student needs for independence. But it doesn’t have to be a difficult task. With the right strategies and a little creativity, you can make learning about money fun and engaging.

One useful method is to combine skip counting and working with coins into your daily routines and stations. My students usually enjoyed working with coins, and it’s easy to turn coin-counting practice into games and engaging activities.

Here’s how I approach teaching basic money skills:

Build a Strong Foundation

Work on skip-counting – A LOT!

I began early in the year and continued to review it on a regular basis. You can incorporate skip-counting into normal, everyday moments, like when students are lining up for recess or standing in the cafeteria line. It doesn’t require any extra supplies or planning – it’s teaching on the go!

I highly encourage daily skip-counting exercises for second and third-graders. I believe it’s a skill that is ok to over-teach. Practice skip counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, and even 25s. Yes, my class even skip counts by 25s, saying “25, 50, 75, 100, or one dollar.”

To make skip-counting more engaging, use multiple senses, such as sight, hearing, touch, and movement. Have students toss a beach ball while saying the numbers in the skip-counting series for a quick and easy game. They can march in place, hop on one foot, or even sing and dance along to songs on Youtube.

teaching money skills using a number line for skip counting

You can also find some engaging hands-on number line activities and hundreds chart activities for students. The more they work with numbers and coins, the more automatic counting becomes. 

manipulatives for teaching money skills
easy-to-make coin manipulatives

I always used hands-on teaching techniques to help students understand the value of coins and their relation to numbers.


One unique approach is to relate money to base ten blocks, which students are already familiar with. 

money manipulatives for money skills

By attaching plastic coins to the base ten blocks using a glue gun, students can visualize how the coins relate to each other and to numbers in general.
manipulatives and differentiation for money skills
For an even better representation, try cutting a base ten rod into five units.

Coin Identification – Early Stage

Coin Sorting

Before jumping into counting coins, students need to be able to identify them. Some students struggle with differentiating between a nickel and a quarter, so explicit instruction is crucial.

Point out that quarters are the largest coins with ridges along the edge. Nickels are smaller and have smooth edges.

Reviewing the images on the coins may also be necessary for struggling students. Keep in mind that newer styles of nickels and quarters feature different images compared to older coins. Quarters now feature different state images on the back, which might cause problems for students because the quarters look different.

Most students will benefit from working with real money to solidify their learning. Students often have trouble transferring their learning from plastic classroom coins to real coins. Providing them with real, authentic coins can make a big difference.

*Please note that Kennedy half dollars are larger, but I typically introduced them at a later stage since they’re not commonly used in everyday life. Don’t worry about half dollars until your students are fluent in money skills.

Grab a set of FREE coin sorting mats click on the image below!
image of coin manipulatives with a free coin sorting mat
Click the image for FREE sorting mats!
Deciding between real money and toy money can make a big difference in your students’ learning. Some students struggle to understand or relate to plastic money because it doesn’t feel, look, or weigh the same as real money.
However, other students can’t tell the difference between plastic money and real money. I’ve had students steal my plastic money, planning to spend it at Walmart.
You can have your students make coin rubbings as a fun, engaging activity. Simply place a coin under a piece of paper and gently rub a crayon over it to create a picture on the paper. I liked having students use different colors for the coins, but that’s optional.
teaching coin and money skills with interactive resources
Helpful Tip: Some students might find it challenging to keep their coins in place if they haven’t developed good fine motor skills.
As we studied the rubbings, we took special notice of the different sizes and faces – images on the coins.
hands on learning for teaching money skills
You can grab this coin-rubbing booklet at my Teachers Pay Teachers store (click here). It’s super easy to make and interactive for students.

image of coin rubbing booklet for students to learn about coins

how to teach basic money skills - 2 part series title image
I hope you’ve found some ideas and strategies for teaching money skills.
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