Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tips for Teaching Money ( K-2nd)

Begin counting money in Kindergarten by assigning a small part of nearly every math lesson for coin counting.  At this age, kids begin  counting by 1's and luckily, the value of  a penny is 'one' just like each number you count!  Only use pennies at this stage.  Do not introduce any other coins yet. Use dot patterns or a 100 chart for a visual.

After your student is comfortably counting by 1's, counting by 10's is the next easiest. Fortunately, the value of a dime is also 'ten'  (wow!) so now you can also count by dimes!

After getting comfortable with counting by 1's and by 10's, your student can learn to count dimes and pennies together by:

First, sort the coins. Second, count the coins beginning with the coin with the highest value ( at this stage, dimes.)  Third, teach to take a 'deep breath' between counting dimes and pennies.  4 dimes and 4 pennies would sound like this:  "10, 20, 30, 40 ( DEEP and dramatic BREATH), 41, 42, 43, 44"  It creates humor, and gives the student's mind time to switch gears between counting by 10's (dimes) and then by 1's (pennies.)  Use the 100 chart if needed.

After counting by 1's, then 10's, the next most difficult is learning to count by 5's.  Introduce this late in Kindergarten after establishing counting by 1's and 10's.  You will also introduce the nickel whose value is (conveniently) also 5!  Use the hundred chart if needed. Don't expect mastery of counting by 5's this year, you are merely introducing the concept.

Reintroduce counting by 5's in 1st grade and of course, the nickel.  Other concepts are trading in 5 pennies for a nickel, trading in 2 nickels for a dime, trading in 1 nickel and 5 pennies for a dime, and learning to count with dimes, nickels and pennies.  Continue to master these throughout 1st grade using the same ideas - sorting coins, counting the coins with the highest value first, taking a breath between each set of like coins. Use the hundred chart and dot patterns where necessary.  Remember, counting money is not the only math concept you will be working on at this age.  There is also patterns, addition, subtraction, geometry, time, skip counting, fractions, probability, etc.; but, throughout most of these topics there is a way to incorporate counting money as a side part of the lesson.  

Later in 1st grade, introduce the quarter,  but no more than 2 quarters.  'Counting on' from 25 provides great practice with all the coins, and 2 quarters is the same as 5 dimes - so once again you have the 10's concept.  Any more than that is confusing and will be better for 2nd grade.

During the 2nd grade, your student is good at identifying, sorting, and counting money.  Re-introduce quarters and move on to learning that 4 of them equal a dollar. Since 2nd graders are also working to master 3 digit addition and subtraction with renaming, you can now incorporate the addtion and subtraction of money using dollars - also three digits!  Handy, huh?  Worried about the decimal?  Don't be.  The concept that it separates the dollars and cents is logical to a 2nd grader and now you have also effectively introduced the decimal so it won't come as a surprise when decimals rear their heads again in more advanced math lessons.

Counting back change can also be introduced in the 2nd grade.  Take the next few years to master this in class and also out in the real world!


Save the 'money unit study' for discovering money's rich history, minting, and the intricate details on coins and dollars. Use Math class to learn how to count it. A little a day, goes a long way. If you start in K, by the time your child has completed 2nd grade, he will have been counting money for 3 years already!

Have a 'money kit' in a baggie: 100 pennies, 20 nickels, 10 dimes, 4 quarters and about 5 dollars in ones. This money kit will last from
K-2nd grade easily.

Count by 1's (pennies) first, then 10's (dimes.)  Later by 5's (nickels). Add quarters last.  This is over a period of 3 years, not one grade.  ( unless you have a super smartie!!!)
sort coins into dot patterns
Separate coins into like piles, and then start counting with the coin that has the highest value first. Take a DEEP BREATH between like sets of coins. Using dot patterns can help too.

When a concept is introduced, it is normal to take many lessons or the rest of the school year to get them down pat. Some concepts are just introductory and meant to be mastered later - next year or even the year after that! So, be patient.  If it's going slow, sometimes it's meant to.

Play store at home!  Have a cash register with pretend ( or real!) money.  Have items for your child to 'purchase.'  You can even make little price tags! Get into it and be creative!  Kids love playing like this and it goes a long way!  Build up that confidence at home before going at it in public, help him be successful in front of others.

All kids are different. Some are advanced with math, others not so much.  Using this approach allows lots of time to get comfortable counting money. You can always go back and start over if needed.  If you didn't start in K, no problem! Start anytime! Just add a little bit to each math class.  Be sure to do whatever works best for your own child, you are his very best teacher!

Annie Eskeldson is a homeschooler and writes for parents of young autists.  Her own daughter didn't have the focus to count to 10 in kindergarten, but today, as a 2nd grader, can count nearly any sum of money, add and subtract money on paper, and is learning to count back change up to the dollar amount paid. These tips are all my opinions, but the proof is in the pudding!   Check out the Ashi's Gift Series at, tips for parents of young autists can be found at or .  Annie will be speaking at the 2012 Midwest Parent Educators convention in Kansas City, taking place April 20 and 21.


  1. You can start such an approach at any level. These tips are my opinions, but the proof is in the pudding! Amazing blog, Thank you dear!

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  2. Thanks so much randyor for your reply!! I learned this post will be going into a homeschooling magazine and so I polished it a bit. My apologies if you have received a 2nd notification of publication. I appreciate you coming by :)

  3. Yes! Very true though - the ages and grades really don't matter. You can start this approach whenever appropriate for the child's learning level. I probably shouldn't have used grades for the post as all kids learn at different stages.

  4. Thank you so much for such a great blog.
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