Monday, June 23, 2008

Money, the Logical Hands-on Teaching Tool

Having taught at the same private school for many years, it only follows that I have taught several brothers and sisters of many families. I've never expected younger brothers and sisters to mirror their older siblings, but I've also noticed that they often do because of the parents' expectations. Parents who expect diligence and responsibility from their children usually have an entire household of diligent and responsible children.

One such case that puzzled me for several years was the inability of children from one particular family to count money, to make money exchanges accurately, to make change involving bills and coins, and to solve general word problems involving money. This was especially baffling considering I teach 5th grade and it is unusual to have one child, let alone several, who can't make small change accurately and easily.

And then I figured it out. These children apparently were never required to be responsible for the money they were given by their parents or for bringing accurate change back home. If one of them needed money for something, the student would be given a $20 bill with no thought for what he/she was expected to bring back home. In this one case, the lunch cost $4.50, and the student had no idea what change to expect. I discussed it with her and she wouldn't even try to reason through it. All she did was just shrug and say "I have no idea" or "I don't know" to every query I made.


So begin early and teach your children how to exchange 5 pennies for 1 nickel, etc. Have them count money (and remember to start at zero when counting). Give them small amounts of money to purchase something and discuss ahead of time overpaying and expecting change from the clerk.

Do you save pennies in a jar? This is a good way to involve your child in a family project. Count the money by the week or month, depending on the child's age. Have the child help you swap nickels for the pennies. Then later swap dimes for nickels, etc. This helps teach your child equivalent amounts.

One game that is fun for children can be played in the car as easily as it can at the breakfast table with coins. Say to the children, "How much money do I have? I have 1 quarter and 1 dime." As children learn to solve these problems, ratchet the game up a notch to this next level: "How much money do I have if I have 2 less than 3 quarters, 1 dime and 1 nickel?" Children in second and third grade can get these problems. Then try going past the dollar, but do not mention dollar bills. "How much money do I have if I have 3 more than 6 quarters, 2 dimes and a nickel?"

Give students reasoning problems, but call them "riddles". "Here's a riddle for you. Bill has 5 coins. What five coins did he have if he has 38 cents?" At first, this can be done with coins in hand, but as children get older, they need to be able to solve this type of problem mentally.

Use money to begin teaching tally marks. More on tally marks in another post, but money is an easy way to get your children to think of counting by sets of numbers. And remember counting is the beginning of solving abstract concepts in numbers. Make sure you do a lot of counting.

Have a pretend store at home. Tell your young children that you are practicing what to do at a real store. Teach them to make change. However, the true goal should be more. You want your children to recognize incorrect change. Explain to them that this is "Wrong Change" day at the store. Tell them you are going give incorrect change for a pretend purchase, and have your child figure out what is incorrect.

Expect your child to be responsible and accountable with any money, even his own. Do not pass it out to him/her like it was candy. Children will value its importance if you value it, and will learn to value it enough to want to know how to use it wisely.


Anonymous said...

well said. keep 'em coming! v.