About This Lesson Plan


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Grades K–4
Lesson Plans

NEW! Currency Café (Grade 2)

In this lesson, students will strengthen their understanding of equivalencies in U.S. currency and the concept of breaking down larger amounts into smaller units for use in everyday practice.


Use creative tools to strengthen students' understanding of equivalencies in currency and the concept of making change.



Background Discussion (35 minutes)
1. Tap into what students already know about U.S. currency as you use EXPO® Low Odor Dry Erase markers to draw and label various denominations of paper money and coins including $100, $50, $20, $10, $5, $1, 25¢ (quarter), 10¢ (dime), 5¢ (nickel), and 1¢ (penny) on the board. Review the meaning of "$" and "¢" as well as the name and value of each coin. Share with students that these bills and coins can be used to represent different amounts of money and that larger bills can be broken into smaller units.

2. Engage students in exploring the concept that amounts of money can be represented using a variety of combinations of bills and coins and that larger units of currency can be broken down into smaller units by playing a game of "Money Math Relay." Begin the game by writing "$20" on the top corner of the board and drawing a $20 bill in the center of the board using an EXPO® Low Odor Dry Erase marker. Invite a student to the board to erase the $20 bill and replace it with the number of $10 bills that equals $20. Next, have the student hand off the dry erase marker to a classmate who then comes to the board to erase one bill and replace it with a combination of equivalent bills. Play continues as students take turns coming to the board to change one bill or coin into an equivalent combination of bills or coins. Encourage students to select the simplest equivalency possible (i.e., drawing four quarters to replace a $1 bill instead of 100 pennies). Periodically pause the game to count up the bills and coins shown on the board in order to reinforce the concept that the value of the money shown hasn't changed; it's still $20.

3. Share with students that the ability to break down a larger amount into smaller units is really useful in the real world when buying something at a store and making change. Explain that "change" refers to the difference between the price of something and the amount of money used to pay for it. Illustrate this idea by drawing a colorful ball on the board and adding a price tag of 25¢. Next, draw a $1 bill. Ask students to consider what would happen if you wanted to buy the ball, but didn't have any quarters, dimes, nickels, or pennies to use to pay for it, only a dollar bill. Is a $1 bill more or less than 25¢? How would it feel to give the shop owner the $1 for the ball when the price tag says 25¢? Might you want some money back after buying the ball? Explain that in addition to the ball, the shop owner will also give you change. Guide students in calculating the amount of change one would receive from the purchase of the ball (Answer: 75¢, visual: 3 quarters).

4. Continuing to refer to the previous example, demonstrate how one way to make change is by "counting up" from the price of an item to the amount of money that was used to pay for the item. Explain that this is like thinking "how much do I need in order to get from the price of the item to the amount my customer gave me?" Demonstrate how one could "count up" from 25¢ to get to $1 by drawing a quarter next to the price tag and saying "the ball is worth 25¢, and if I add 25¢ more, I'm at 50¢," then adding another quarter and saying "if I add 25¢ more, I'm at 75¢" and finally drawing a third quarter and saying "the ball, plus 75¢ is equal to one dollar. The ball is 25¢ and the customer paid with a dollar, so I owe her 75¢ in change." Model "counting up" the fast way by pointing to each quarter in turn and saying "50, 75, one dollar." Erase the quarters and begin again by asking students to contribute ideas for which coins, other than quarters, to add to the price of the ball as the class "counts up." What would happen if we "counted up" using dimes and a nickel? What about if we gave change in only nickels or only pennies? Practice "counting up" with additional scenarios such as a yard sale where a book costs 89¢, a fancy hat costs 55¢, and an apple costs 64¢. As you demonstrate, encourage students to contribute ideas for which coin to add next and to count aloud as you draw coins on the board. 

Using the Student Printable (20 minutes)
5. Distribute copies of the My Café Student Printable. Invite students to work in pairs, taking turns playing the server and customer at a café while they practice making change.

Lesson Wrap-up (15 minutes)
Using EXPO® Low Odor Dry Erase markers, divide the whiteboard into six equal spaces. Inside of each space, write one of the six possible money math problems from the worksheet ($1 – 30¢, $1 – 57¢, $1 – 88¢, $1 – 44¢, $1 – 76¢, $1 – 95¢). Invite six students up to the board and have them draw the coins they used to make change for one of the scenarios. Next, ask six different students to come up to the board and count out the coins drawn in the six spaces and write the amount as a number, being sure to select the appropriate symbol ($ or ¢). Invite a third group of students up to the board to draw a different, yet equivalent combination of coins in any of the six sections. Encourage all students to contribute. Review the students' work as you "count up" to $1 at each of the six spaces on the board and acknowledge the variety of combinations of coins that equals the same amount. (Answers: $1 – 30¢ = 70¢, $1 – 57¢ = 43¢, $1 – 88¢ = 12¢, $1 – 44¢ = 56¢, $1 – 76¢ = 24¢, $1 – 95¢ = 5¢; coin combinations for each answer will vary.)

Extension Activity
Create a currency challenge board where you post a different "price tag" each week and invite students to draw one possible combination of equivalent bills and coins on a sticky note and add it to the challenge board. For example, if the price tag were $4.50, students could draw four $1 bills and two quarters, or 18 quarters, or three $1 bills and six quarters, etc.

CCSS.Math.Content.2.MD.C.8 Solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickel