# Counting Change: A Fun and Useful Way to Improve Math Skills!

The counting of change to a customer in a store in the right manner seems to be a lost art in our society. Practicing counting out change properly is a great activity for kids and a great way to improve math skills. Since children should have an understanding of the value of coins and paper money, they can be shown (even at this early age) how to do this math activity effectively.

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Start by pretending to buy something from the child. Use a value for the purchased item that is less than a dollar. You may have the child count up to a dollar using any counting method.

When the child is proficient at counting up to a dollar, to continue to improve math skills try using a larger denomination bill. For example:

The charge for a product is \$2.40. The customer gives you a \$5.00 bill.

Tell the child to first, hand the customer the coins (initially, you may want to have the child count these out). The “coin” portion of the change rounds the \$2.40 charge to \$3.00. As the change is handed back you tell the customer, “That’s three dollars.” (since the change portion equals \$.60). At this point you might ask the child “how much more do you have to give the customer back?” Since you’ve rounded the change up to \$3.00, the child would then hand you back \$2.00 saying while handing the money back, “That’s \$4.00 and \$5.00.”

You have basically done a subtraction problem that allows a customer the convenience of not having to count their change themselves in addition to creating a fun and interactive way to improve math skills. This activity may be started as early as second grade just by using change and counting by numbers up to a dollar. Counting change serves as an excellent number sense exercise and at the same time, shows the relationship of this skill to the real world. Initially, start by using the same denomination of coins to count the change. Many children learn intrinsically what number of a particular denomination of coins will equal a dollar. By the third grade, children should have an understanding of how the denomination of one set of coins relates to another.

20 nickels = 10 dimes = 4 quarters = 2 half-dollars = 1 dollar
1 dime = 2 nickels
1 quarter = 5 nickels
1 half–dollar = 5 dimes = 10 nickels

Other combinations, like 3 quarters = 15 nickels and 15 dimes = 6 quarters, should also be explored.

Next come questions like, “How many dimes have the same value as 6 quarters? …40 quarters?”

While playing, stress the importance of counting by numbers. When counting coin change to the nearest dollar, have the child count by various numbers to the highest number they can without going over a dollar.

Example: You might tell the child, “A piece of candy costs 28 cents and is paid for with a one dollar bill. All you have for change are nickels and pennies. How many nickels and pennies do you need to give your customer back?”

This can be repeated with any combination of coins. Since our monetary system is predicated on base ten, it is a super exercise that will improve math skills and dovetails both math and real world skills.

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