In the early grades, students need to identify coins, know the values of the coins, and understand relationships between the coins (1 nickel has the same value as 5 pennies).
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I read something interesting related to coins a while back, probably in Van de Walle. Coin values are really a very abstract concept for young children. Think about it. Up until now, students’ experiences with numbers have all been based on one-to-one correspondence. The number 5 meant five of something—jelly beans, teddy bear counters, fingers, etc. With coins you have one object, take for instance a nickel, but now it means 5. That can be pretty tough! After reading that, I decided that I wanted to do something to help make coin values a little less abstract and to tie this new knowledge into something students are already very familiar with. What I came up with was ten-frames. So again, if you think of the CRA sequence of instruction, the ten-frames are the representation of the abstract concept. Pictured below are images of the cards I made to help support the students as they learned about coin values. You can grab the cards here.
Next, I made a trading mat for the students to use.
Each child needs a trading mat and a supply of real or play money. If you’re using play money, it should be as realistic as possible. Call out a coin, for example, nickel. The students put a nickel in the nickel column. Then ask them to show you how many pennies it takes to equal the value of the nickel. You can take this activity in many different directions. Ask them to put out a quarter, and then ask them to show you the same value using dimes, nickels, and pennies. Notice how open-ended that is! Many students will use 2 dimes and 1 nickel. But lots of other combinations will work as well. Think about the great math conversations you could have! Grab your free trading mat here.