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Parents are often surprised when their academically bright students struggle with learning money. There is really only one way to master money. It is to use it. Counting money is the math skill we all use every day.
Money practice and knowledge help build numerous math skills. Calculating ways to pay for something builds additional skills, as well as problem-solving strategies. Figuring out change supports double-digit subtraction, a second-grade skill that is mind-boggling hard for many second graders to comprehend. It teaches fractions. It reinforces place value, also.
Most children in second grade recognize their coins and know the value of at least some. Familiarity and practice are necessary to begin to automatically assign and calculate amounts. Once coin mastery is accomplished then paper money can be added to the mix.
Here are some ways to help your child become a money champion:
1. Money exploration:
Materials: A variety of coins (more than a dollar, less than $5)
A magnifying glass (optional)
Give your child a pile of coins to sort. At this point, the goal is to study the money, not count it. Have them sort the money by coins. Ask them to notice how the coins are different. Point out the different faces on the coins and the variety of backs of the coins. They can use the magnifying glass to get a good look at details such as Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial on the back of older pennies or the years. You can explain that the serrated edges on dimes and quarters are there so the blind can feel the difference between a dime and a penny, or a nickel and a quarter.
2. How many ______ in a dollar?
Materials: 20 nickels
A piece of paper and a pencil
Your child probably can probably tell you how many pennies are in a dollar. Line up the nickels and dimes. Touching each nickel as you count, count by fives to get to $1.00. You can repeat this by putting the nickels in a pile and let them move them as they count. Do the same thing with the dimes.
Fold the paper into quarters and open it back up. Put a quarter in each segment of the paper. Write the value of the accumulation of the coins. Under the first quarter, write 25
¢, the second 50¢, then 75¢, and finally $1.00. (It is best that you use the whole number with decimal points as they will need to recognize this as the go above a dollar.)
Take the coins off the paper. Ask them to put 75¢ on the paper. You can do this with any of the coins. Ask for amounts that can be paid all in the same coin. (Four dimes for 40¢)
3. Counting up
Materials: A variety of coins totaling more than $1.00
A paper and pencil
Give your child a variety of coins. Ask HIM to show you one way to make 63¢. Usually, the first choice a child makes is to give you six dimes and 3 pennies. Write this on the paper as DDDDDDPPP. Suggest finding as many ways as possible to reach 63¢. You may need to remind him of the value of two quarters. You can point out that it is best to start with the highest value coins. For example, start with the quarters, then dimes, nickels, and finally, pennies. Each time you reach the number, write down the way it was accomplished. For example QQNNPPP
Practice this daily by picking a "number of the day." Challenge your child to see how many ways he can reach this value. You can also play this game with a dry erase marker on your refrigerator as you make dinner. Let him write the ways to see how many ways he can come up with. You can set rules such as no more than twenty pennies. (Check to make sure the dry-erase doesn’t stain before you do this. The household cleaner will usually remove any residue but try it on a hidden place before you give your child the marker.)
4. Play store
Materials: A variety of coins, Several small items to "buy," Pieces of scrap paper or sticky notes to write the price on.
Once your child has mastered counting coins, playing store is a favorite activity for most seven and eight-year-olds. Start by having your child assign prices to small items. She can set up a store. Begin letting your child be the shopper. You or an older sibling can be the cashier. She can select the item to "buy" and pay the cashier with the exact amount.
As they gain confidence, you can increase the difficulty of the game in two ways. First, let her select two items to purchase. She can count out the change for both items and then put it together to pay you with the full amount. If she selects an item for 17¢ and another for 29¢, she first counts out the change for both: DNPP and QPPPP.
She then puts the coin together to come up with her total: QDNPPPPPP. Then placing a finger on each coin as she counts up: Twenty-five, thirty-five, forty, forty-one…until she reaches 51¢.
You can also have your child be the cashier and make the change. Show how to count change back. This is a lost art but a lesson worth knowing. For example, The item costs 38¢. You pay with two quarters. She first says the price of the item, “38¢.” Then gives you a penny “39¢.” Another penny is added “40¢.” Finally, a dime is given”50¢.” Make sure she says the amounts as she counts them back.
If you are unsure how to do this, click here to watch a short video that demonstrates the strategy.
You can add dollars to your amounts as your child’s ability grows.
A variant of this game is to play it as "Restaurant." Your child can create her own menu or you can find one on Pinterest.
5. Letting your child pay the bill.
If you are at a store or restaurant, let your child count out the money to pay. Remember to do this only if things are slow at the cashier. This is the real-life experience a child needs.
Remember to have fun while you do these activities. Pretend to make mistakes and let your child catch them. Use statements such as “I notice you have counting quarters down pat. Awesome! Next time, we can add dollar bills.” Use silly voices as you pretend to be the cashier. Be positive and before you know it, they will be asking for allowance.