Math Background

Money: Overview

Your children have had varying levels of experience working with money, but most can easily see the connection between money and real-world activities. Their awareness of this connection makes most children eager to practice working with activities that involve money.

As you begin working with money, be aware that the children have had experience with the names of coins and their values, but they will benefit from reviewing them. Make sure that they understand that larger coins are not always worth more money. For example, a penny is larger than a dime but a dime has a greater value. Take care to make certain that children can identify coins (front and back) and that they have a solid knowledge of coin values before they begin counting groups of coins.

In Kindergarten, children learned about pennies, nickels, and dimes. In Grade 1, quarters are introduced. When children begin counting groups of coins, emphasize the need to begin counting with the coin of the greatest value and count on, using skip counting to find the total value. For example, when counting one quarter, three dimes, two nickels, and three pennies, they start with the quarter (25¢), count by tens for the dimes (35¢, 45¢, 55¢), count by fives for the nickels (60¢, 65¢), and by ones for the pennies (66¢, 67¢, 68¢). Help children develop flexibility with money by providing many opportunities to exchange, or trade, coins of a given value for a coin or coins of equivalent value. For example, five pennies can be traded for one nickel.

Create a learning center that focuses on activities such as identifying coins and their values, counting and combining groups of coins, trading coins, creating groups of coins with equivalent amounts, and matching groups of coins to prices. Provide real coins, if possible, or realistic play coins for children to use for center activities. Use the learning center to assess children's progress with learning money concepts.

Using coins to model problems will help children use what they know about numbers to work with money. Provide problems that encourage children to use logical thinking, such as Carla has 3 coins with a total value of 15¢. What are they? David has 3 coins with a total value of 25¢. What are they?

Continue to use classroom situations to reinforce money concepts during the year. Have children identify and name coins as they pay for lunch or milk. Have them find the total value of coins that they bring to school or receive as change.


Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 1