In my classroom, we have a little jar into which I put a penny for each
day of school. When we had ten pennies, we traded them for a dime. In this
way, I am, among other things, introducing the concept of place value -
tens and ones, with the dimes representing the tens and the pennies as
It was through this process that I realized many of my first-graders do
not know one coin from another. There are many activities that families
can do with just a handful of coins.
A good beginning activity for the youngest children is to have them sort
coins, putting together the ones that are the same. In this type of exercise,
the vocabulary will be centered around the size and colors of the coins,
as well as the names that we use to refer to each one: penny, nickel, dime,
quarter, half-dollar, and dollar.
Next, children can begin to understand the value of each coin. Once this
is firm in your childís mind, you can introduce a new type of counting.
This is the time for children to understand that you can count how many
dimes you have when you count by 1: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 dimes. But when you count
how much money you have, you count by 10: 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 cents.
Counting by 5, 10, 25, and 50 may be a challenge at first, but it is a
skill that helps children to understand the underlying principle that mathematics
is based on patterns. When children begin to understand these patterns,
they have a better grasp on math.
Through the coins, parents can teach children about the people who are
depicted on them: Presidents Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt,
and Kennedy, Susan B. Anthony, and Sacajawea.
In 1999, the United States Mint began introducing new quarters every ten
weeks. There will eventually be a design on the reverse to honor each state.
This is a fine way to talk about the states and introduce them to children.
By keeping a bunch of coins handy you can teach lessons from basic math
This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacherís Advice for Parents.