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Sean’s Strategy for Counting Coins

Written by Donna Boucher

Donna has been a teacher, math instructional coach, interventionist, and curriculum coordinator. A frequent speaker at state and national conferences, she shares her love for math with a worldwide audience through her website, Math Coachโ€™s Corner. Donna is also the co-author of Guided Math Workshop.
I have a great story for you tonight! This morning a 2nd grade teacher burst into my room to tell me what one of her amazing mathematicians had come up with all on his own. Sean was counting coins and doing exactly what he had been taught–he grouped like coins together and began by counting the quarters. The counting part just wasn’t working out for him, though. ย He was having a hard time switching from skip-counting by quarters to dimes to nickels, etc. Who could blame him? That’s a tough skill. The teacher wandered off to help another student, and when she came back she was amazed and delighted by what she saw. Sean had pulled out his hundred chart and placed the first quarter on the number 25, the second quarter on the number 50, the first dime on 60, etc. until he had counted the collection of coins. As he explained his strategy to her, another kiddo nearby, who was also having a hard time counting money, was listening in. Guess what? Sean’s strategy made sense to him, too!!Funny thing is, I had seen this strategy at a workshop, but Sean came up with it himself. I wanted to hear the strategy from Sean, so I pulled him out in the hall and he walked me through it with all the confidence of an old pro. Like, “Duh, what part of this don’t you get?” You can see just a hint of it in the picture, but he is grinning from ear to ear.

Think your kiddos don’t have their own strategies? Think again! Give them the tools and the opportunity and you WILL be amazed by what they come up with.

So here is your job–I want Sean to be a mathematical rock star in cyberspace. If you love this story (and how could you not?), please leave a comment below and then pin it to your board. ย Let’s show Sean some love!

Math fever…catch it!! ๐Ÿ™‚

I created a little winter-themed 120 chart for your kiddos who want to try out Sean’s strategy! ย Click here to grab yours. ๐Ÿ™‚

53 Comments

  1. Kim Hayden

    I thought of this randomly last year. I taught money for 10years and it never dawned on me. My teachers thought I was either nuts or genius. Glad to hear I am not alone.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I know, right? Brilliant idea! You certainly won’t be alone now. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
    • Jenn Davidson

      I’ve used this strategy with a variety of special needs students when I taught a self-contained classes. Once I switched to general ed, my first graders caught on quickly to this strategy. there are two modifications I’ve used when necessary that have triggered many, “I get it!” smiles. Covering up every number except for #1 with a ‘flap,’ allows them to focus on counting a spaces appropriate for each coin when the numbers distract them from doing so. They lift the last flap they are on to see the actual amount. A second strategy is similar. Stamp each of the previously mentioned ‘flaps’ with a one cent stamp. This helps them understand each space represents one stamp. Creating the flaps can be a little time consuming but very much worth that “I get it!” smile!

      Reply
  2. Amy B

    AMAZING!!!! I’m sending a link to this article to our second grade teachers!
    Great story!
    Amy Burton

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks, Amy! Sweet kid…great math mind. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  3. Mrs. Parker

    I love using this strategy when teaching my students how to count money. I like that it provides a visual for those who need it but also allows for counting on using a concrete object like the 100s chart. Great story.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Perfect use for the hundred chart!

      Reply
  4. Althea

    Well Sean you made my day! I teach second grade math and hope some of my students come up with their own strategy like you did. You are my Math Hero today.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Mine, too, Althea!

      Reply
  5. Diane Hubacz

    I LOVE this! I got chill bumps reading it! Sean may have been having a hard time, but he had a strong enough number sense to find another way. He leaned on something he knew to help him learn something he didn’t know. You can see that the 100’s chart is going to live in his head in the future. What a victory for him! Kudos to his current and past teachers who helped to instill this number sense in Sean!

    Diane
    Teaching With Moxie

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks for your sweet comment, Diane!

      Reply
  6. Carlin Smith

    After 14 years of teaching, I finally thought of that strategy a few years ago! That’s awesome that a student discovered it before being shown!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I know! And his strategy is already benefiting others in the class. Too cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  7. Teacher Kirra

    I love it! GO SEAN! I am going to teach addition with money to my kids using this strategy in the future.

    Sean = Future math teacher, or maybe problem solving genius??

    Teacher Kirra

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Ha ha! Sean = the sky’s the limit!

      Reply
  8. Debra

    Thank you for the Freebie. My class last year was the first to embrace the 100’s chart as a math strategy, but didn’t use it for money. Hoping this year, more kidlets will add it to their repertoire, and, like Sean, figure out how many ways it CAN be used. Well done, Sean!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      It’s just so awesome to me that he made the connection. That’s huge!

      Reply
  9. 59da0430-0ff5-11e1-b39c-000bcdcb2996

    Way to go Sean! Can’t wait to share your strategy with my class!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      He’s a pretty smart kiddo, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  10. First Grade Teacher from WI.

    Thanks for sharing Sean’s idea. I was impressed that Sean kept on working on his own and came up with a great idea that worked well. Way to hang in there Sean!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Yes, he did! And his hard work paid off. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  11. Miss Young & Mrs. Eichelberger

    How cool! I will be sharing this with teachers and kids. Thanks for sharing his thinking.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I couldn’t NOT share this! It was such great thinking. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  12. Linda Nelson

    What a great story, Donna! Sean’s solution shows how deep and wide his understanding really is! I was also impressed by the fact that his teachers gave him time and opportunity to explain his thinking – so important for Sean and for the others who then latched onto his strategy. Thanks for sharing!

    Linda

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Absolutely, Linda. He definitely has great number sense, and his teacher is awesome!

      Reply
  13. Asia M. Hadley

    Awesome! Go Sean! I’m so glad that he has an inspiring teacher like you. Was he able to share with the entire class?

    Reply
  14. Asia M. Hadley

    Awesome! Go Sean! I’m so glad that he has an inspiring teacher like you. Was he able to share with the entire class?

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I can’t take credit for being his teacher, Asia. His teacher shared it with me, and I shared it with you!

      Reply
  15. Anonymous

    Very cool problem solving Sean! Never give up!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      He’s an awesome kid!

      Reply
  16. Christen

    I love this idea and plan on showing it to my second graders tomorrow using the whiteboard camera. I think it makes perfect sense and I keep wondering why I never thought of it myself!

    Christen

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Ooh, that’s a great idea!

      Reply
  17. Carpenter Family Chronicle

    Does anyone know if these type of number grids will be allowed on the common core tests?

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      I don’t know about common core. I know they wouldn’t be allowed on our state test in Texas unless the student had special accommodations. But I think if the kiddos use them enough, they will have a strong image in their head of the chart and it will deepen their understanding.

      Reply
  18. landoflearning

    I think it’s awesome that this little guy figured that out on his own! I actually teach that strategy to my whole class so I can help my firsties avoid the headaches of struggling to keep up with the coins. Those students who catch on quick only use it a couple of times before they are able to just coint the coins. But for my more struggling students, it’s a godsend as long as they know their coins.
    Shibahn

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks for chiming in, Shibahn. I think you’re right that for most it’s only a brief stepping stone, but I love the mathematical connections going on. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  19. maierss

    Sean, you’re a star! I KNOW this will help some of my students! You made a difference!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Thanks so much for you comment! Our Sean is something special. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  20. Lisa Parnello

    I love this strategy! What a great problem solver that kid is! I’m just about to teach money, so this works perfectly! Thanks!

    Lisa
    The Lower Elementary Cottage

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      It’s a GREAT strategy, Lisa. And, yes, it’s so cool that he discovered it on his own! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  21. cindy winkler

    I love this story! We begin teaching money on Monday and I was looking for more strategies to teach money. This is a great one! Thanks! Way to go Sean!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Pretty cool, right? He’s one smart cookie!

      Reply
  22. Anonymous

    I am not a teacher but I am a grandparent of two, one a grade 1 & the other in grade 4. I love this story & know this will not only be very helpful but will also be fun, thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      The hundred chart is a great support for some kiddos! Glad you enjoyed the story. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  23. Anonymous

    I am teaching this skill in the next few weeks, can’t wait to share this strategy. Thanks to you and your student.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      You’re so welcome! I hope the strategy comes in handy. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  24. Anonymous

    What I love about this story is the direct link to Common Core. As you said, if you give them the tools and a rick task, they come up with a strategy. Calling it Sean’s strategy is perfect and motivating for the students. Launching money next week and I will start with this task. thanks.

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      Yes, Sean was so proud of the post! I’m glad it’s something you can use in your classroom. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  25. Mrs. Pendergast

    Way to go Sean!! Very clever:)
    I have been using visuals that can add to what Sean is doing, with my first graders. Using different transparent file folders, I choose a color per coin, for coins nickel, dime, quarter. (For pennies, I use transparency chips.) I measure against the 1-100 number chart my first graders use. I cut the strips that cover the value. For example, a nickel would be a strip of blue, that covers five number spaces. A dime would be a yellow strip, covering 10 number spaces. I put a supply for each student who would benefit in a plastic sandwich bag for easy distribution. It works!

    Reply
  26. Anonymous

    Brilliant! I love this strategy. As a parent of a child who struggles with number sense, counting coins has been a real challenge. I think we have a solution. Thanks for sharing!
    Kathy

    Reply
  27. Barbara Skelton

    Way to go, Sean!! Great strategy!

    Reply
  28. shlager

    Amazing strategy! Just last week one of my colleagues shared that her students were struggling with counting coins. Using a hundreds chart is a great solution!

    Reply
    • Donna Boucher

      The 100 chart is a great tool for so many things!

      Reply

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