Money is a fun, practical and real world manipulative for children to work with. The 4th and 5th graders are lucky in that after the Bixby Bazaar, being the upper class students, they are the ones who get to count the change (and it’s a lot!). We spent one week working with money and it was very engaging.
Students began their week by moving through 9 counting stations; at each station was a plateful of mixed coins. Their task was to tally and record the total at each station. This job of counting mixed values (pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters) involves a number of steps. The first step is to find a way to organize the pile of coins (almost all students naturally do this and most sort by the type of coin). They must count each separate coin pile and then add those subtotals up to get the grand total. Finding the amount of each denomination requires counting by constants, which most older students can do and they enjoy the rhythm and predictability of this task. Because money is so mighty interesting, many kids get distracted by the variety of details that they notice while handling the coins. This presented a perfect opportunity to follow their questions and interests: we had a coin trivia treasure hunt. Using one station of coins, they had to locate the oldest/newest coin, find a coin that was minted in Denver and one that was minted in Philadelphia (they learned to look for the tiny D or P that stands for the mint location), find all four mottos (that are required by law) on one coin (ask them what they are), and finally, make a list of the states on the newer quarters.
The last class of the day put all of the quarters together and made a graph of the states, using the actual coins. Students are fascinated by money and so it was a wonderful, educational and lively week!