Math Background

Count and Compare Money Amounts: Overview

Money is a powerful tool for teaching children to compute. Children naturally want to know about money, and though money concepts can be difficult for them to understand, once they do, they can easily learn to count and compare money amounts. Patience and practice are essential.

To help children understand how to count money amounts up to $0.50, you should help them develop their skip-counting skills. Counting money involves counting on and skip counting by 5s, 10s and 25s. To count coins, children need to understand how to sort the coins to make counting easiest. They need to sort them by starting with the coin of highest value and then the coin of next-highest value, continuing until all coins have been sorted into groups. Once children have grouped the coins, they then can skip count to find the amounts. To help children with this, you can start by giving them just one type of coin and have them practice skip counting to get the total; then repeat with two different coins, then three different coins. When you are introducing groups with more than one type of coin, have the coins presorted in groups of like coins so that it is easier for children to count on.

Three dimes, two nickels and one penny

Children will also need to know how to compare money amounts by using “greater than” and “less than” symbols (>, <). They must first, however, master counting money amounts. When they are proficient at that, they can then call upon their place-value knowledge and begin to compare money amounts. Guide children to “see” which amount is more or less. Relating money amounts to whole numbers will help children tremendously with this task. They will have to skip count to find the total value of each group and then decide which symbol should be used to compare them.

The ultimate goal in helping children understand money is to enable them to use money. Using money requires counting the money they have and comparing the amount they have with the cost of an item. That skill builds upon their ability to compare amounts of money. Children will best develop the skill of using money by doing just that—using money. Setting up stores in your classroom or having an auction are ways that you can help children practice using money. Using play money in class will solidify money concepts in children's minds. The more hands-on practice with money you can give children, the better. They will need to be able to look at a group of coins, and a price, and identify the coins that equal that amount. Children will also need to be able to read a price, find the coins to show that amount, and then count on to find the value of the coins given.

Introduce children to the decimal point and the dollar sign when writing one dollar. Up to this point, they have only seen money amounts written using the cents sign. Making change and solving multistep problems with money are important skills for children. Once they are able to make change, they will have mastered all of the basic skills for using money. Like counting on, making change is a skill that can be challenging to children of this age, but once they understand it, they are on their way to mastering it. Giving children multiple strategies to make change will also help them. Teaching them that they can subtract or count on to find their change will help them realize that there are different ways to get an answer. Allowing children to explore different ways to solve a problem will also help them to solve multistep problems using money. Helping children to understand what information is asked for and what information is given will be the first step in developing their problem-solving plan. They can decide if they need to subtract, add and then subtract, or perform any other operation to solve a given problem.

Houghton Mifflin Math Grade 2