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Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

Help Young Students Understand Coins

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Recognizing coins and understanding their value are two separate and important skills. Young students cannot be expected to add and subtract mixed coins, then understand the different value of each one, if they don’t first recognize individual coins.

In the United States we have four major coins in our exchange system: penny, nickel, dime, and quarter.

Understanding coins is like understanding fractions. They are part of a “whole” and can be added, subtracted, and exchanged.

Here are simple activities to help a young student recognize and identify different coins, then understand the value of coin combinations.
First, start by playing a Card Coin Match game. This is played with a jar full of mixed coins and this printable game board. The game board also subtly reinforces coin value.

Once your child can easily recognize and identify different coins, play Got Five! This game is for two players. For Got Five! you will need one die, 30 pennies, and 15 nickels. Here are the steps:

  • Put the pennies and nickels in one pile to make a bank.
  • Take turns rolling the die and collecting the number of pennies shown on the die. For example, roll a 4, collect four pennies.
  • Whenever one player has at least five pennies, he can “trade” them for a nickel, putting the pennies back in the bank.
  • The game ends when there are no more nickels left in the bank.

When your child masters Got Five!, introduce and play Got Ten! The directions are similar to those for Got Five! The bank for Got Ten! also includes 10 dimes as well as the 30 pennies and 15 nickels.

  • When the die is rolled, players make different combinations of pennies and nickels to trade for a dime.
  • When the dimes are gone, the game is over.

Having fun while learning with coins is a terrific way for young students to remember crucial skills needed for math success.


#1 Beth Welch 2014-07-11 14:11
At 99 years old my mother still sees yourself as a teacher. She makes up games for her caretaker's six-year-old son. I can't wait to pass this on.

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Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?