Which coin is which?

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SWBAT identify differences amongst coins. SWBAT sort coins into groups.

Big Idea

Show me the money! Students will identify differences between the coins and sort them into like groups.


10 minutes

CCSS Context:

In 2nd grade, students are expected to use coins to solve word problems. This lesson works great as an extension to the first grade curriculum or as an intro in 2nd grade. Students have to create a list of the defining attributes for each coin, because as all teachers who have ever taught money know, remembering the differences between the coins is the first big hurdle!

Hook: Sing a song!

Songs are a great way to help kids get moving and wiggling, while also being a great mnemonic device for kids. My favorite Coin Song will have kids breaking it down all over the place!

Connect to Real Life:

Today's lesson is important because when we use money in real life, we have to be able to use the correct coins to pay for things. 


Your thinking job is: What do I call each coin? How are the coins different?

Opening Discussion

20 minutes

Partner Sort:

I am going to get kids interacting with coins from the very beginning! 

Students will sort a bag of a small number of coins with a partner. I want students used to looking closely at the coin features. I am not pushing the vocabulary yet, just the features! Students will sort the coins into 4 groups; they will put the coins into link coins using the attached Sorting Mat! 

Directions: Sort the coins into groups. Make sure that each coin in the group is exactly the same. If you finish, talk with your partner about what your coins look like. 

Bring students back together.

Present task: We made 3 different groups of coins just using what we notice about their features. Let’s look closely at the coins and see how they are the same/different.

  • I'll set up 4 mini anchor charts-one for each coin. See Coin Anchor Charts for how our charts turned out!


I'll present coins one by one: Have students list what makes that coin look different from the others. Expect some wild noticings! My favorite is that the nickel has a ponytail and you can see his jacket collar.

Guiding Questions:

  • How do you know for sure this is a penny and not one of the other coins?
  • How is this coin different from the others?

I’ll list all of the noticings about each coin on the chart.  After the discussion for each coin, I’ll also quickly list the coin value and reference our coin song. This is largely just for exposure. Students will work more on identifying coin values in later lessons.

Partner Share & Game

15 minutes

Teacher prep: I'll print a copy of each Coin Cards sheet for partner groups. I will have pre-cut groups of cards for the partner groups and each group will get a bag of play coins. 

Student Share Game

1. Partner 1 pulls a card and reads the coin name.

2. Partner 2 finds all of those coins in her bag and gives them to partner 1.

3. Partner 1 says: How do you know?

4. Partner 2 gives at least 2 reasons.

5. Partner 1 checks and makes sure.


We will play a round or 2 before students play independently. The "how do you know" portion gets at the CCSS MP3, “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others”. Students are working in partners for this activity so they can practice defending their reasoning for the coin, and then their partner can agree or disagree.

I’ll give students 10 minutes to play.

Watch this video of 2 students playing this game. You'll hear student explanations for why they know which coin is which. The little boy says a great reason he knows the coin is a nickel at the very end!

Independent Practice

15 minutes

Independent Practice: Students will do a cut and paste coin sort at their desks to practice identifying the coins. I'll leave the charts we created hanging so students can refer back to them.

Watch this video for how one student models using the anchor charts to help her determine which coin she has. This is a classic example of why anchor charts are so important! Students learn to reference them and can find answers to their own questions, which is aligned to the CCSS emphasis on independence.

Group A: Intervention

For these students, we will start with just the dime, nickel and penny. They also have picture support on their sort.

Group B: Right on Track

Students sort all the 4 coins into like groups. I integrate writing across the curriculum and MP3 (Construct viable arguments) into the bottom portion of the sort. Students write about how they know the coins belong in the group. This is aligned to MP3-Construct viable arguments. Students are writing down their thinking for why that coin fits in the group they chose.

Coin Sort is attached!


5 minutes

Watch this Brainpop Video to review the day's learning. It is free on the site and integrates the CCSS emphasis on technology into the classroom.

Possible Extension

20 minutes

Students can make one or all of these fun foldable books about the coins! They are free from Jenna Bailey's TPT store. They have great images of the coins, and reviews the coin values. I'll give kids time to make a few of the books to keep as a reference of to take home and practice!