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Modeling Prizes

Number and OperationsAlgebra
Grace M. Burton
Location: unknown

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.

To begin the lesson, read Arthur’s Funny Money or another book dealing with using coins.

pdficonBooks Using Coins

Then call on volunteers to name an amount up to 70 cents and have the children model it, or say that the amount is too large to model with their coins. Once an amount has been modeled ask the children if it is possible to model it in another way. You may wish to record the various ways on a chart or on the chalkboard.

565 stamps

Next ask children what they know about stamps and expand on their understanding, if necessary. Explain they will have a chance to purchase stamps just like at a post office. [For this activity use the cancelled stamps that families have sent in or have children draw stamps of various denominations). Assign several children to be post office clerks and give them sets of stamps to display at their station. Provide the other children with bags of coins and assign each child to one of the clerks. Then have them pick out a stamp and pay for it using exact change with their coins. The clerk will check the amount before giving the child a stamp.

After the children have had a turn at both roles, call them together and tell them you are going to ask a puzzle that has a coin as an answer. When they think they have solved the puzzle they are to hold up the coin which answers it. [Examples: 1) I am worth more than a nickel and less than a quarter; 2) If you have 2 of me you can trade us for another coin; 3) I am the largest coin we have studied so far.] If the children are able, encourage them to pose similar puzzles.

565 jar

To close this lesson and introduce a new skill, display a clear jar with pennies in it and a clear bag containing 10 pennies to use as a benchmark. Have the children write on sticky notes or file cards their estimate of how many pennies are in the jar and then to arrange the estimates in order. Then call on volunteers to count the pennies, trading for dimes when this is possible. Repeat with a different number of pennies, if possible putting them in the same size and shape of the first jar. [You may wish to make an estimation activity part of your daily routine for the next few weeks, changing the amount in the jar each day.] Ask them to add an entry to their portfolio which describes the activity and, if appropriate, how they arrived at their estimate.

  • Arthur's Funny Money or another book dealing with using coins
  • Bags of coins
  • Cancelled stamps
  • Clear jar with pennies
  • Clear bag with pennies
  • Sticky notes or index cards


Move on to the next lesson, Making Change.

Questions for Students 

1. How many pennies equal a quarter? A dime? A nickel?

[25 pennies equal a quarter; 10 pennies equal a dime; 5 pennies equal a nickel.]

2. What ways can you model 21 cents? 39?

[21 cents: 2 dimes and 1 penny; or 1 dime and 11 pennies; or 21 pennies.]
[39 cents: 3 dimes and 1 nickel and 4 pennies; or 3 dimes and 9 pennies; or 2 dimes and 19 pennies, etc.]

3. Which coins could we use to model 40 cents?

[A quarter, a dime, and a nickel; or four dimes; or eight nickels; etc.]

4. Are any coins not silver? Which have ridges?

[Pennies are not silver colored.]

5. How would you tell a younger child to trade for dimes?

[Student responses may vary.]

6. How do you know when you don’t have enough coins to model an amount?

[Student responses may vary.]

7. Suppose you want to buy a snack from a machine which costs 45 cents. What coins can you put in the machine if it doesn’t take pennies?

[You could use a quarter and two dimes; or you could use nine nickels; or you could use four dimes and a nickel; etc.]

Teacher Reflection 

  • Which students met all the objectives of this lesson? What extension activities are appropriate for these students?
  • Which students did not meet the objectives of this lesson? What instructional experiences do they need next?
  • When the children participated in the post office activity, were they able to apply what they know about coins?
  • Which students are still uncertain about trading nickels for dimes and quarters? About trading pennies for nickels, dimes, and quarters?
  • What parts of the lesson went smoothly? Which parts would you change the next time you teach this lesson?

Exploring Pennies and Dimes

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. 

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.

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 to 70 cents.
  • Recognize equivalent sets of coins to 70 cents.
  • Count collections of coins to equal a given.

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.
  • Use multiple models to develop initial understandings of place value and the base-ten number system
  • 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.C.6
    Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, e.g., by using matching and counting strategies.

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.1
    Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings1, sounds (e.g., claps), acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

-Kindergarten, Algebraic Thinking

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.OA.A.2
    Solve addition and subtraction word problems, and add and subtract within 10, e.g., by using objects or drawings to represent the problem.

-Kindergarten, Geometry

  • CCSS.Math.Content.K.G.A.1
    Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front of, behind, and next to.

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, 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?