How to Teach Money
Money is one of my absolute favorite units to teach because it is so real life. That was a weird sentence, but you know what I mean? Everyone uses money. Kids are fascinated by money. There are so many real-world experiences we can create for our students when teaching money. Counting coins, making change, adding money – these are all super practical skills that we use every single day and the best part is students KNOW they will use these skills. The buy in is already there! As teachers, we just need to make sure we keep it interesting. Today, I’m sharing how to teach money using games and activities.
Counting Coins Games
Counting coins is one of the first money skills students should learn. Between identifying coins and their value, to skip counting to find the total, this is a basic concept that will help students as they learn more complex money concepts. Here are some of my favorite counting coins games to help build understanding with this skill.
1. Coin Scoop
This activity makes a great math center. It is very simple, but fun for students! All students need is a bucket of coins (real or plastic), a spoon, and a whiteboard.
Students will use the spoon to scoop some coins out of the bucket. Whatever they scoop out is what they count. They will then count the coins and write the total on their whiteboard.
2. Race to $1
This game not only provides excellent practice with counting coins, but also exchanging coins for a larger unit. All students need for this game is a variety of coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and – if desired – half dollars), and 2 dice.
Students will take turns rolling the dice. The number they roll is how many pennies they will draw for their turn. As students get more coins, they may exchange for larger coins as needed. The first student who reaches a total of $1 wins.
3. Coin Sorting
Another simple but engaging counting coins game is a coin sort. For this activity, you need several small containers (or muffin liners work great!), each labeled with a cent value, and coins.
Students will count out coins and place them in the container that matches the total value. For an extra twist, only give them the least amount of coins possible to make all the different values. This way they can easily check their own work because there will only be one possible way to make each value without running out of coins.
More Money Games for Kids
Counting coins is an important skill for students to master, however there is so much more to teaching money beyond that! If you’re wondering how to teach money in a way that really digs deep, here are some activities that you might try.
1. Play Money Who Am I?
I’ve talked about the game Who Am I? before. I love using this game for math because it is so versatile! For money, one way to play this game would be to give each student a card with a cent value on it, such as 32¢. Students will go around the room giving each other clues to the amount on their card. This could go with counting coins games, because one clue students could give is naming the coins that make up the amount. But, students could also give the amount needed to make $1, or another number sentence to go with their amount. (For example – “Your amount plus one quarter equals 57¢.”) This game can be used for so many money concepts!
2. Use a Classroom Economy
Another strategy for teaching money that a lot of teachers use is a classroom economy. You can implement this from day one to get in some real-world money practice all year long. The idea behind it is that students earn “money” for various tasks in the classroom, and that “money” can be used to purchase certain things.
I personally have not used a classroom economy system, even though I’ve always wanted to! I did use a very simplified version when I taught kindergarten where students could earn die-cut frogs for good behavior and exchange them for rewards like a free dress day or eating lunch with the principal. If you’d like to learn more about using a classroom economy, check out this post by Laura Santos at Core Inspiration.
3. Do a Room Transformation
I talk about room transformations a lot, and I don’t think they have to be crazy over the top to be meaningful! (Read all about my approach to room transformations here). The idea behind a room transformation is to create an immersive real-world experience for your students, and there are so many ways to do that with money! You could create a class market – even allowing students to create something to “sell” to other students – or turn your classroom into a restaurant using my Dollar Diner activities. The goal is to give students a real-world experience to put their skills into practice, which can be incredibly meaningful.
Activities That Help With How To Teach Money
Don’t have time to do a lot of prep for some of these money activities? No problem! I have tons of resources on Teachers Pay Teachers to help with teaching money. You can check out my complete set of money activities here.