Working Hard for the Money

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SWBAT count groups of nickels and pennies together.

Big Idea

Who doesn't love a Donna Summer reference?! Teach students to count nickels and pennies, while also having them compare amounts of money.

Objective & Hook

5 minutes

CCSS Context:

In this lesson, students practice mixing at least 2 coins, the penny and the nickel, and show how they can count those coins together. This is aligned to 2.MD.C8, and works as an early lesson in 2nd grade or an extension in first grade. Students are practicing skip counting, and thinking critically about WHY we count by 5s vs 1s. They also practice comparing 2 numbers using terms "greater than" and "less than", which is aligned to the first grade standard (1.NBT.3). 

Review & Hook:

Review what we have learned about coins with this AMAZING song on youtube. If your kids love to break it down, this song will be up their alley! Watch the video here!

Connect to the real world:

Today we are going to look at how to mix two coin values together and figure out the value. This is important because if you go to the corner store, and they give you a group f nickels and pennies, you are going to have to know how to count how much money you have in all!


Your thinking job is: How do I count mixed groups of nickels and pennies?

Opening Discussion

10 minutes

Present Task: Let's pretend we are at the grocery store. We want to buy a banana that costs 21 cents. We only have nickels and pennies in our pockets. How can we use those coins to buy the banana?

In yesterday's lesson, we used 2 dimes and 1 penny to make 21 cents. Will we use the same number of nickels and pennies? 

Let's test and see if we could use the same amount of dimes as nickels-2 nickels and 1 penny-and see if it make the same amount.

I'll model counting 2 nickels and 1 penny. As I go, I'll have students help me figure out how to count it.

Guiding Questions:

  • How will we count the nickels? 
  • Where will I draw the line? I use the line or "wall" to help kids remember to switch their count. They draw the line between groups of coins.
  • Will I count everything by 5s? Why not?

Revisit original question: Does 2 nickels and 1 penny equal 21 cents? Why can't we just trade the dimes for nickels?


Student Share

15 minutes

Review previous task: When we bought the banana, we needed 21 cents. That was 4 nickels, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 1 penny. 21.

Present new task: Now I want to buy another banana but prices went up! Now the banana is 26 cents. How could I use nickels and pennies to pay for the banana? Show on your whiteboards.

  • Student Share: I'll have one students present how they created 26 cents. 

We will do a few more problems in this same way, creating amounts using nickels and pennies.

Historically, I have seen most students struggle with the switch from the 5s to 1s when they are off the decade. For example, if students are counting two nickels and a penny, then they count "5, 10" and can usually switch to "11" because the switch happens on the decade. However, with three nickels and a penny, they might count "5, 10, 15," but then they struggle to add a penny to 15. This is something to look out for and also something to discuss with the class: Why do we say 16 next?

Game Time!

15 minutes

I'll have students play Coin Top It! This game is a great way for students to practice counting coins, while also using greater than/less than language, spiraling in the place value standard 1.NBT.B3. 

Game Rules:

1. Each player pulls a card from the top. 

2. Each player shows the other one how they counted the coins. 

3. Whoever has the greatest amount gets to take both cards. 

4. Keep playing until all cards have been pulled. Person with the most cards wins!

I differentiated the activity for different student groups by changing the total amount of coins on each card. 

Group A: Intervention

You can get the game cards for free here from Nicole O'Connor's TPT store. The coin values do not go above 20 cents.

  • There were very few students who were not ready to mix all 3 kinds of coins, so I ended up doing a small group intervention group with whiteboards and practicing counting mixed groups. You can watch what we did in the Small Group Intervention here!

Group B: Right on Track

Students use the attached Coin Top It_Group B_C cards. They have much higher values, but include some of the lower value cards from Group A also.

Group C: Extension

These students will move on to mixing all 3 types of coins. I used this version of the coin game again from Nicole O'Connor's store.

Students will play this game for 10-15 minutes. They will use these cards with a partner to solve a few word problems at the very end of the lesson. 

Closing Problems

12 minutes

Students do a fun exit ticket to end today's lesson. They glue their cards to a corresponding grocery store item's price. We will partner check their work so they have immediate feedback on how they did for the day.