Teaching money in intermediate grades is a little more complicated than simply learning the value of different coins or bills. But at least our students do have a head start on the subject.
After all, it's money we're talking about!
By the time children arrive in 4th grade, they understand the intrinsic value of money because they have seen it their entire life.
The challenge comes from counting different denominations and making change.
When counting money, the rule-of-thumb for elementary school math is to always start with the biggest bill or coin and add from there, working down to the smallest denomination.
Simple, right? Well, not for children. It takes plenty of practice.
I usually have play money available for students to use for practice, or cards with different amounts written on them. At times I have had trays of play money of all paper denominations as well as coins. This makes it easy to grab a handful to put in baggies then give them to students to count out on their desks.
This is a very effective elementary math activity. And believe me – kids like to count money, whether it is real or fake!
I discuss the equivalency of money and decimals here.
Making change is confusing to children for a couple of reasons. First, they must understand subtraction. Second, they must be able to grasp the concept that there are unstated zeroes involved in a figure such as $20.
In other words, in order to properly subtract $15.22 from $20, they must add those two zeroes to the end of 20, making it $20.00. I have learned from teaching kids about money that those ending zeroes confuse them.
So, as with everything in math, it takes a lot of repetition and practice for them to fully grasp the necessary concepts.
Practicing money math
There are a lot of Smartboard lesson plans on counting money that can be effective for introducing the topic. It can also be helpful to find online math games simply by searching for “interactive money games fifth grade” (without the quotes).
Some online banks actually provide these money-counting games on their websites.
A very effective idea is to give children a hypothetical $20 and an old Scholastic book order form and have them order as many books as they can without going over their $20 budget. To do this successfully, of course, they must keep a running total of their purchases.
It’s great practice for addition with decimals, as well as counting money.
Another method for teaching kids about money is playing “store” or “restaurant,” which is a particular favorite of my children when they must have indoor recess. In my room I have a cash register and some fake food, as well an old restaurant menu. They use the the fake money to take orders, then they “prepare” food, and make change.