Counting Money

One of the things I have become confused about with the new Common Core standards is why there is only one reference to money: 

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?

This comes with a BIG assumption - that 2nd graders know how to identify coins and their values.  Hmmm.....does this mean 2nd grade teachers must take on those two key skills, or are first grade (and possibly K) teachers taking on this task, too?  Also, in the age of technology, is counting money becoming a skill that may be phased out altogether (along the same lines as handwriting vs. keyboarding)?

Needless to say I have always evaluated this skill with my 2nd graders within the first month of school.  First, I have a volunteer work with kids one-on-one to test them on coin identification, coin value, and coin combination skills.  Once I know this, I know where to start.  Often I find that the skill level is crazy different and I use a lot of guided math & math stations so I can work with the struggling students more often.

One of the first things we do is a coin sort (I have blogged about this before - click here to see the full post).  At this point I am also introducing my students to games.  While students are playing games, I can pull my struggling students to work on identification through directed games/activities.
Once I have established that (most) students can identify the coins, it's time to work on counting coins.  Most students can successfully count dimes, nickels, and pennies when reminded that they should start with the largest coins first and then work down to the pennies.  One strategy that my colleagues and I have found successful is introducing touch money (something I learned about several years ago).  I must warn you - this strategy works if students can successfully count by 5s and then add on 1s.  If a student cannot count by 5s, start there).  

**sometimes I will teach my students to draw a line horizontally under the penny so they can see the mark better while counting.

Once we've learned the touch points, it's time to practice:
As students see the coins, they tap the coin where you see the red dots and say the numbers you see written on the coins.

After practice, practice, and more practice, eventually the students get to a point where they are ready to count coins in any order: 
Since counting by 5s is something most 2nd graders can do, I teach mine to save the pennies until the end.  So in this case, we worked from left to right, top to bottom to count and skipped the penny until the end.  Again, students tap the coin where you see red dots and say the numbers you see written above.

After practice, my students feel much more successful with counting money.  By the end of the year, some second graders have transitioned away from needing the touch points, and others stick with them all year long.  Either way, the kids are counting money and able to apply these skills to the new standards.Eventually, we get to the point where we can use these skills to solve word problems.  For example, some of my students will tackle the following problem in this way:

If you have 2 dimes and 3 pennies, how many cents do you have?

One student might draw this on his paper:

Then that student would tap the letters in the same way he did on the coins in the example above (2 taps per dime, 1 swipe per penny).  You would hear a student count: 5, 10, 15, 20, 21, 22, 23.

Another kid might say, "Two dimes is 20 cents.  Three more than 20 is 23."  The answer is 23 cents.

Is money an easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy skill?  No way, but it is less frustrating to teach them a strategy they can use, right?

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