Pin it!
Google Plus

Primary Economics

  • Lesson
Number and OperationsAlgebra
Jamie Piecora
Farmingville, NY

In this lesson, students will play the role of a consumer as they learn how to use different combinations of coins to make money amounts up to 25 cents. Students will earn money and save it in their piggy banks until they have the exact amount to purchase an item of their choice.

3289 piggy bank

Prior to the lesson, prepare the following materials for each group to use during the main activity:

  • Print out and cut a set of Want Cards for each group. Put them in a plastic bag to keep them organized.
    pdficon Want Cards
  • Print out and laminate the Piggy Bank and the Bank Work Mats.
    pdficon Piggy Bank Work Mat
    pdficon Bank Work Mat
  • Create bags of assorted plastic or real coins for each group. The bags should contain at least ten each of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
  • Create coin cubes. To create coin cubes, use stamps or coin stickers and place one of each coin on four sides of a one-inch wooden cube. Then, write the word “wild” on the remaining two sides. As an alternative, a six-section spinner could be used. Each section should contain one of the four coins or one of the two “wild” sections. If a cube or spinner is not available, put six small pieces of paper into a paper bag. The six pieces of paper should contain one of the four coins or one of the two “wild” sections. During each turn, a student would pick a piece of paper out of the bag and return it at the end of their turn.

To build excitement for the main activity, show students a picture of a small item that you would like to purchase. Tell them that you would like to purchase that item. Ask them to tell you what you would have to do to purchase it. [First you would have to get some money, then you would have to go to the store and then you would have to pay the cashier.] Tell the students that you do not have any money right now to purchase this item, but you really want it. Ask them to give you suggestions of what you have to do to get the money you need. [You could work to get money or get it as a gift.] Tell them that you will get paid soon, so you will get to buy this item. The item you would like to purchase is ten cents; ask them to tell you what coins could be used to buy this item? [You could have a dime, two nickels, a nickel and five pennies, or ten pennies.]It may be helpful to have coins for students to use and a large set of coins to display for the entire class to see. Explain that you will get paid only five cents. Ask them what they think you will have to do since you won’t have enough money. [You would have to save it until you get more money]Explain that sometimes you cannot buy something right away. If this happens you have to save your money until you have enough.

Ask the students to give you an example of something small that they would like to buy. Draw a picture of the requested item on the board and give it a fictitious price that is less than twenty five cents. Ask the students what coin combinations could be used to get to that price.

To begin the main activity, divide the students into groups of four. Explain to the students that they are going to select different things that they would like to purchase and then they are going to roll a number cube in order to get money and save it in their piggy banks. One student from the group is going to be the banker. The banker will pay everyone for their work and he will also collect the money when an item is purchased. The other three students will be the consumers. They will work, save and purchase.

Select three students to help you model the lesson and sit with them around a small table. Have the rest of the class stand around the table to see how to do the activity. Model the lesson by doing the following:

  • Select a person to be the banker and give them a Bank Work Mat and a bag of coins. (While modeling the lesson, it works best if the teacher is the banker.)
  • Give the other three consumers a Piggy Bank Work Mat.
  • Place the want cards in the middle of the table.
  • All three consumers will choose a Want Card and place it on the work mat where it says I WANT IT.
  • The first consumer is going to roll the coin cube
  • The banker will give the consumer the coin that they rolled.
  • If it is enough to buy the item on their Want Card, they can give the money back to the banker and purchase the item and place the card on the work mat where it says I BOUGHT IT and select another Want Card.
  • If it is not enough the consumer will have to put the coin in their piggy bank and save it until they get more money.
  • They must have the exact amount to purchase the item on the Want Card. For example, if an item costs eleven cents, they must give the banker eleven cents. They cannot give the banker a quarter.
  • Then the next consumer would roll the number cube and repeat the process.
  • They will continue until all of the cards have been purchased.

Once you have made a complete rotation around the table and every consumer has had at least one chance, allow the students to get into groups, give them their supplies, and allow them to start the activity. When all of the Want Cards have been purchased, another student from the group should become the banker, and the group can begin the activity again. (You may want to create additional Want Cards with different items and prices for additional rounds of the game.)

At the end of the lesson, have the students return to their seats and take out a half sheet of paper. Show them a pencil and tell them that this pencil costs 24 cents. Explain that you already have a dime in your piggy bank. Ask, “What other coins would be needed in order to buy that pencil?” Have them record their answers on the half sheet of paper and then compare their answers with a friend. As they are comparing, walk around the room and listen to what the students are saying to each other. Listen for accuracy and strategies that they used.


Assessment Options

  1. The students could write in their math journals or on a piece of paper all of the different coin combinations that make twenty-five cents. They can choose to draw it or write it in words.
  2. Meet with students one-on-one or in small groups. Give them coins of the same type totaling 25¢ or less and ask them to add them. This type of assessment allows you to actually see their strategies as well as their comfort and confidence level as they count the coins.


  1. Students may do the same activity with different Want Cards. The new set of Want Cards could include prices above twenty five cents.
  2. Set up a classroom store. Include different items to purchase along with coins and a cash register. The students could visit the classroom store at various times throughout the year. Different concepts could be introduced throughout the year as the students progress. For example, as students learn more about addition they could buy something at the store for 11 cents and pay with a quarter. The cashier would then have to give the student change. The students could trade a quarter in for 25 pennies and then divide the pennies into two groups. One group would contain 11 pennies and the other would have the remaining 14 pennies. This group of 14 pennies would be the change. The students could then save their change to buy something else at a later date.

Questions for Students 

1. For which of the Want Cards was it most difficult to save enough money?

[It was difficult to save enough money for toys and jump rope, because each of them required several different coins.]

2. What could you use to show five cents if you had no nickels in your piggy bank?

[Five pennies.]

3. Could you purchase an item for twenty five cents without any quarters?

[Yes. There are many possible combinations. Some of them are two dimes and a nickel, one dime and three nickels, five nickels, or twenty-five pennies.]

4. If you had two dimes in your piggy bank and you wanted to buy a ball for twenty two cents how much more money would you need?

[Two cents.]

5. Would two nickels and a penny be enough to buy a piece of gum for fifteen cents?


Teacher Reflection 

  • Did the students have a firm understanding of identifying coins and their values prior to this lesson?
  • Was a group of four students appropriate for this lesson? Should the groups have been smaller?
  • Did the higher level learners excel in this lesson or did it lack rigor for them?

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Recognize and know the value of a penny, nickel, dime and quarter.
  • Use different combinations of coins to make money amounts up to 25 cents.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Count with understanding and recognize "how many" in sets of objects.
  • Develop a sense of whole numbers and represent and use them in flexible ways, including relating, composing, and decomposing numbers.
  • Illustrate general principles and properties of operations, such as commutativity, using specific numbers.

Common Core State Standards – Mathematics

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.1
    Count to 100 by ones and by tens.

-Kindergarten, Counting & Cardinality

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.CC.A.2
    Count forward beginning from a given number within the known sequence (instead of having to begin at 1).

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.3
    Decompose numbers less than or equal to 10 into pairs in more than one way, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each decomposition by a drawing or equation (e.g., 5 = 2 + 3 and 5 = 4 + 1).

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.4
    For any number from 1 to 9, find the number that makes 10 when added to the given number, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record the answer with a drawing or equation.

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.5
    Fluently add and subtract within 5.

-Kindergarten, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.NBT.A.1
    Compose and decompose numbers from 11 to 19 into ten ones and some further ones, e.g., by using objects or drawings, and record each composition or decomposition by a drawing or equation (such as 18 = 10 + 8); understand that these numbers are composed of ten ones and one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, or nine ones.

Grade 1, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.B.4
    Understand subtraction as an unknown-addend problem. For example, subtract 10 - 8 by finding the number that makes 10 when added to 8.

Grade 1, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.5
    Relate counting to addition and subtraction (e.g., by counting on 2 to add 2).

Grade 1, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.6
    Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10. Use strategies such as counting on; making ten (e.g., 8 + 6 = 8 + 2 + 4 = 10 + 4 = 14); decomposing a number leading to a ten (e.g., 13 - 4 = 13 - 3 - 1 = 10 - 1 = 9); using the relationship between addition and subtraction (e.g., knowing that 8 + 4 = 12, one knows 12 - 8 = 4); and creating equivalent but easier or known sums (e.g., adding 6 + 7 by creating the known equivalent 6 + 6 + 1 = 12 + 1 = 13).

Grade 1, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.A.1
    Count to 120, starting at any number less than 120. In this range, read and write numerals and represent a number of objects with a written numeral.

Grade 1, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.NBT.C.4
    Add within 100, including adding a two-digit number and a one-digit number, and adding a two-digit number and a multiple of 10, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method and explain the reasoning used. Understand that in adding two-digit numbers, one adds tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose a ten.

Grade 2, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.OA.B.2
    Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies. By end of Grade 2, know from memory all sums of two one-digit numbers.

Grade 2, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.B.5
    Fluently add and subtract within 100 using strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.

Grade 2, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.B.6
    Add up to four two-digit numbers using strategies based on place value and properties of operations.

Grade 2, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.B.7
    Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method. Understand that in adding or subtracting three-digit numbers, one adds or subtracts hundreds and hundreds, tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose or decompose tens or hundreds.

Grade 2, Number & Operations

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.NBT.B.9
    Explain why addition and subtraction strategies work, using place value and the properties of operations.

Grade 2, Measurement & Data

  • CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.C.8
    Solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, using $ and ¢ symbols appropriately. Example: If you have 2 dimes and 3 pennies, how many cents do you have?

Grade 1, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.A.2
    Solve word problems that call for addition of three whole numbers whose sum is less than or equal to 20, e.g., by using objects, drawings, and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.

Common Core State Standards – Practice

  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP1
    Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP4
    Model with mathematics.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP5
    Use appropriate tools strategically.
  • CCSS.Math.Practice.MP7
    Look for and make use of structure.