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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

How Much Money? Counting Coins

Does your school use Responsive Classroom?  Mine does and that means morning meeting time each day.  Last year, I purchased this great book for the teachers in my school.

This book is full of great ideas that are quick and easy and some that are a little more involved.  It ranges from grades K-5 and has ideas for adding math into your morning message or morning meeting.  

I have seen this book used greatly in some classrooms and less so in others.  To encourage more use and to get more math into morning meeting time, I have been visiting different classrooms during their morning meeting to demonstrate an activity from this book.  

Today I want to share with you an activity I did with a group of third graders.  This activity is from the grade 3 section and is called How Much Money?  Of course, I made some changes and adaptations to suit this particular class and their strengths and weaknesses.  

Here are the common core standards addressed by this lesson.  
  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.C.8 Solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, using $ and ¢ symbols appropriately. Example: If you have 2 dimes and 3 pennies, how many cents do you have?
  • CCSS.Math.Content.3.NBT.A.2 Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.

The students were sitting in a circle and I gave each student a white board and a bag of coins.  The coins were something I just estimated and put in a bag.  I did intentionally put a few bags that would have some dollars and less than ten cents left over.  This is because on a recent assessment, I noticed several kids in this class were representing money amounts such as $3.08 as $3.8.  I wanted to address this so I made sure 3 of the bags of change contained an amount that would come up this way.

I also gave each kid their own bag because this is a group of kids where when paired up one partner tends to dominate and the other hitches along for the ride.  I didn't want to change their seating because I was joining in on a morning meeting so I just gave them each their own.

I had kids look at the bag of change and gave them about 20 second to look before making an estimate.  We shared our estimates aloud.

I then had kids dump out their bag of money and count it.  When they were certain of the amount, they were to write how much they had on their white board and put the change back in the bag.

A student organizes and counts money
As students finished, I had them place their white board in front of them so that everyone could see what had been written.

Students display their money amounts
When everyone was ready, I had had students look at a few boards such as the one above that shows $3.02.  I had another student read the amount and then I asked them why the person put that zero there.  This led to a great discussion about why we put the zero there and what happens if we don't.  I also asked them to look at boards such as the one that says $2.99 and tell me about how much money that person had.  This led to a quick discussion of rounding and how why so many things in stores are priced with 99 cents included.

I then asked the kids to look at each of the white boards and make an estimate about how much money we had as a class.  After two minutes of quiet think time, I asked students to share their estimate and how they figured it out.  The kids seemed to all have chosen one of these three strategies.  

Strategy 1: Some students added up the dollars and ignored the cents.  They got about $40.  I asked them if this was an over estimate or an under estimate.  They did a good job in understanding that there had to be more than $40.  Some kids counted the 99 cents as another dollar and some did not. 

Strategy 2: Some students rounded to the nearest dollar and added the amounts.  These kids seemed to think they had a slight over estimate because many of the numbers rounded up.  (turns out they were right!)

Strategy 3: A few students added the dollars up and then rounded the cents to the nearest ten and added those up.  They got very close to the actual answer and got a really good mental workout.

From here, I split the class into two groups and completely added this on from the way this activity is described in the book.

This class has many kids who perform really well in math and many kids who require a lot of intervention in math.  There are not a lot of kids in the middle.  I had the kids I am certain are accurate at counting money collect the whiteboards (not erased!) and go to a corner of the classroom to figure out how much money we ACTUALLY had.  I gave them no more guidance than this because I really wanted to see how they would tackle this problem on their own. 

For the kids who require intervention, I really wanted to check in on their coin counting skills and give them a little more practice in this area.  I had them switch bags of money and count their partner's bag to see if they agreed with the amount their partner got.  Most did. (yeah!) But the few that did not had to count the money again with their partner and come to an agreement.  This gave them another experience at counting money and provided an opportunity for them to learn from each other. 

Meanwhile, the other group was able to figure out exactly how much money the whole class had with no guidance from me.  There were 6 kids in this group.  They each took a few whiteboards and found the total amount of money on the boards they had.  Then they reported it to the group and the group kept a running total of the amount of money they had.  Check this out!  I was so impressed, I had to figure it out for myself and turns out they were right!  They also grouped the boards in a way that made this much easier.  I am truly amazed at what kids can do when they are given the chance.  The best part is they did this all mentally!  
A group's running total of how much money the whole class had. 
I will be sharing other ideas from this book as I visit classrooms and try to get more math into morning meeting!  


  1. Thanks for the post! Just added this book to my wish list on amazon! :) Looks like it has some great questions to start of your day! Thanks for sharing!

    Learning to the Core

    1. There is nothing better than starting the day with math!