Stop Telling Them How Many are in a Dollar

I am pretty sure this lesson has changed how I will teach counting money for the rest of my career. Ready for the secret? I did not tell my students what to do.

Backstory- My dad, Tim was trying to use a battery powered coin sorter/counter to count his coin stash. It was a train wreck. I begged asked him to let me take the coins to school to have my students count them instead. He happily agreed.

Honestly, I just figured that the students would get a kick out of counting real coins. Plus, they love anything that is related to my life outside of school. "Tim's Coin Collection" was a huge hit! Win #1. They loved asking about my dad and touching real coins.

I always give them a couple of minutes to explore our math tools before we use them, so they spent some time talking about what they look like, feel like, and sound like as they hit the floor. Some interesting estimates of total value ranging from $2 to a million were thrown out.

They told me that a dime is worth 10 cents and a dollar is worth 100 cents. This also lead to several money puns that I will spare you from.

Win #2 I challenged them to figure out how many dimes it takes to make one dollar. Without prompting they used their ten frame and each put one dime in each space. Then they counted by tens to 100.

I am never one to just sit on my laurels, so I took it to the next level. How many dimes does it take to make $5?

Win #3 Problem solving in real-life math worksheet required! The hardest part about this portion of the lesson was keeping my mouth shut. All I did was remind them to use what they discovered making one dollar out of dimes to help them make five dollars.

What I saw was amazing. It was right out of a book! On their own, they chose strategies that made sense to them to organize and sort the coins, notice patterns, and problem solve.

Array 10 rows of five
Put one dime in each space five times
Stacks of ten dimes

Put one dime in each space then made a stack
They had never seen coin rolls

Win #4 They all were able to justify their reasoning. ALL WITHIN 25 MINUTES!

Used ten frames to count sets of fives then added the rest
Win #5 The following day, they remembered what they discovered the previous day AND were able to apply it. They made several sets of $5 and put them in paper coin rolls. There was more discussion about Tim's great collection and what they he might do with the money.

Most of them even challenged themselves to use a different strategy to make $5. Win #6

Tomorrow? We will see what they discover about nickels.

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