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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 an essential life skill that every student needs for independence. But teaching money skills doesn’t have to be tough. Good scaffolding and outside-the-box strategies to the rescue can help.

Skip counting and working with coins can be easily worked into daily routines and stations. Most of my students enjoyed working with coins, and it’s easy to turn coin-counting practice into games and enjoyable activities.

Here’s how I taught basic money skills:

Build a Strong Foundation

Work on skip-counting – A LOT!

I started early in the year and continued to spiral back to it weekly. You can skip-count as students are lining up for recess. You can skip-count while students stand in the cafeteria line. It’s free and takes no supplies or extra planning – it’s on-the-go teaching!

I strongly encourage skip-counting daily with students in second and third grades. I feel that it’s a skill that’s ok to over-teach. Skip count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and 25s. Yes, my class skip counts by 25s. 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 following number in the skip-counting series. Students can march in place, hop on one foot, and many songs on Youtube can 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. 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 a 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 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 reviewing 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 feature different images compared to 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.
*Kennedy half dollars are bigger, but I don’t introduce those until much later because we often don’t see those in real life. I totally ignore the half dollars until students are fluent in money skills.
Grab a set of FREE coin sorting mats click on the image below!

Click on the photo for FREE coin sorting mats!

Real money versus plastic/toy money may be a differentiation decision based on the needs of your learners.
Consider using real coins versus plastic “classroom” coins. I’ve had some students who are not able to see plastic money the same way as 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. I’ve had students steal my plastic money, planning to spend it 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 having students use different colors for the coins, but that’s optional.
teaching money skills with interactive resources
Be aware that students who don’t have good fine motor skills may struggle to keep their coins in place.
As we study the rubbings, point out the size differences and the different faces/images.
hands on learning for teaching money skills
You can grab this Coin Rubbing booklet at my TPT store (click here). It’s super easy to make and interactive for students.

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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