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Exploring Pennies and Dimes

Number and OperationsAlgebra
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

In this lesson children examine pennies and dimes and model subtraction as they listen to a children’s book. They model amounts to 60 cents with coins. They use coin rubbings of pennies and dimes and make a chart comparing the two coins. At the conclusion of the lesson, they begin a word wall and make an entry in their portfolios. 

Distribute plastic bags containing 24 pennies and 3 dimes to each child. To begin this unit, read Alexander Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday. Then reread the book and ask the children to work with a friend to model the amounts he spends, starting with page 12 where he buys some bubble gum. [There will be enough money if children combine their bags of money.]

554 Moneybag

Hold up a penny and ask the children to find a penny in their bag. Ask them to describe the penny, and record their descriptions on chart paper. Now ask the children to place a piece of paper over one penny and to rub the paper with a crayon to make impressions of both sides of the coin. Ask them to record the coin’s value in both words (1 cent) and using the cent sign (¢). Then repeat the procedure with a dime.

Next ask the children what similarities and differences they notice about the coins. Then ask what words they used when they were talking about the money. As children name them, create a word wall by writing the words on a poster or on sticky notes and post them in a prominent place in the classroom.

pdficonTen Frame Activity Sheet

Next give each child a copy of the Ten Frame Activity Sheet. Ask them to use it to find out how to trade the pennies in their bags for dimes. Model this by placing 1 penny in each cell of the ten frame, and when the frame is full, exchanging the 10 pennies for 1 dime. Then ask them to find out how many dimes’ worth of pennies they have in their bag. [You may wish to remind the children that both a number (such as 4) and a unit (such as dimes or cents) must be given to express a quantity.]

Write in a prominent place and call children’s attention to the cents sign (¢) and the word "cents". Now put the children into pairs, and give each pair a number cube and a paper bag. Ask the children to dump the coins from both their plastic bags onto a piece of paper. Then have the children take turns rolling the number cube, with one child rolling to tell how many dimes will be put into the paper bag, and the other child rolling to determine the number of pennies. After both children have rolled the number cube, ask them to record the amount they have in the bag in both formats and then to verify their prediction. Ask them to repeat the activity several times. Students should record the results on the Paper Bag Activity Sheet.

pdficonPaper Bag Activity Sheet

When the children are ready, ask for volunteers to choose one of the amounts they modeled and show it in coins to the other children. Then for a first entry for their portfolio, ask the children to write one amount and draw the coins which show that amount.


Questions for Students 

1. What words did we use today, which tell about money?

[Penny and dime.]

2. How many pennies do we trade for a dime?


3. What is alike between a penny and a dime? What is different?

[They both are coins and are used as money; each size is different, and each value is different.]

4. How could you help younger child trade pennies for dimes?

[You could use a ten frame to show that 10 pennies have the same value as a dime.]

5. How would you model 23 cents? 32 cents?

[23 cents: 2 dimes and 3 pennies, 1 dime and 13 pennies, or 23 pennies]
[32 cents: 3 dimes and 2 pennies, 2 dimes and 12 pennies, 1 dime and 22 pennies, or 32 pennies.]

6. What two ways can you write "cents"?

[With a word or with a cents symbol.]

Teacher Reflection 

  • With which coin values were children familiar before the lesson began?
  • Which students met all the objectives of this lesson? What extension activities would be appropriate for those students?
  • Which students did not meet the objectives of this lesson? What instructional experiences do they need next?
  • Were the children able to distinguish between the dime and the penny?
  • Would you make any adjustments the next time you teach this lesson?

How Many Ways?

Children extend their investigation of the previous day to include nickels. They estimate the value of collections of pennies, nickels and dimes then determine the exact amount by exchanging sets of pennies or nickels for dimes.

Trading For Quarters

In this lesson, children listen to a poem about money, and then examine a quarter. They find sets of coins equivalent to a quarter using pennies, nickels and dimes. They also estimate and count coin collections and count by fives and tens using actual and online calculators and pose and answer coin puzzles.

Modeling Prizes

Children use pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters to model amounts to 70 cents. Next they answer money puzzles and estimate the number of pennies in a jar. They also add to the word wall.

Making Change


To begin this lesson, children model prices mentioned in a children’s book. Then they make change from a given amount by counting on from the price.

Note: Counting on to make change is a very challenging activity. In initial instruction, it is best to restrict the coins used in making change to pennies and dimes.


Looking Back and Moving Forward

This final lesson of the unit reviews the work of the previous lessons. Children discuss and model prices and the words on the word wall and play games to facilitate continuing practice. They add to their portfolio and listen to another children’s book. Questions for summative evaluation are suggested.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Model amounts with pennies and dimes to 60 cents.
  • Identify words and symbols relating to cents.
  • Recognize physical differences in pennies and dimes.

NCTM Standards and Expectations

  • Connect number words and numerals to the quantities they represent, using various physical models and representations.
  • Count with understanding and recognize "how many" in sets of objects.
  • Use multiple models to develop initial understandings of place value and the base-ten number system
  • Sort, classify, and order objects by size, number, and other properties.