paying with coins lesson plan

Return to Lesson Plan Home Page | Download This Lesson | Next Lesson

  • Lesson Title: Paying with Coins
  • Grade Band: 3-5
  • Lesson Length: Approximately 2 days
  • NCTM Standard: Number and Operations Standard

Learning Objectives

  1. The student will identify various ways to represent the same dollar amount using coins.
  2. The student will pay for items using coins of various denominations and in multiple combinations to arrive at the same total amount.
  3. The student will propose purchase options given an allotted amount of money (budget) to make those purchases.

Connection to Bloom’s Taxonomy

  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis
  • Synthesis

Lesson Materials

  • Calculators
  • Coins for each team: at least 12 quarters, 10 dimes, 10 nickles, and 10 pennies ( can be real or play money )
  • Crayons or Colored Pencils
  • Dice
  • Index Cards
  • Item Cards from Geddes Kit List
  • Pencils
  • Worksheets for lesson plan 5 (see sidebar)

Making Connections

Start this lesson by asking how many students receive a weekly allowance. Next, ask how they are usually paid – in one dollar bills, coins, or a combination of both. Students are most likely paid with whatever their parents might have handy. Explain that it does not matter how they receive their allowance, as long as the total is the same. The same is true when purchasing an item from a school store.

Have students consider the following:

  • Does it matter if you receive a $3.00 allowance as three $1.00 bills, or as a $1.00 bill and eight quarters?
  • Would a storekeeper mind if you paid for a $5.00 book with five $1.00 bills rather than a single $5.00 bill?

Explain that when making purchases as a customer or giving back change to a customer, we often have to work with the money that is available. Your lunch money may consist of coins and/or paper bills in certain denominations. The cash register in the cafeteria or school store may have a limited number of coins and paper money available for making change. Fortunately, our government currency provides numerous ways of coming up with the same total amount of money. This would be a good time to discuss with students the Word Origins and review the Vocabulary List that will be used in this lesson.

Ask students to think about situations where coins are used in different combinations in order to pay for an item or service. Have students brainstorm a list of responses.

Some possibilities may include:

  • To purchase beverages in a vending machine
  • To pay for parking using a meter
  • To leave a tip for a restaurant server
  • To buy a pencil from the school store
  • To make small purchases at a store for gum, candy or soda
  • To buy a newspaper out of a box
  • To pay for your school lunch
  • To make a phone call at a pay phone
  • To ride public transportation (bus or subway)
  • To buy a stamp out of a machine

Exploring and Learning

  1. Explain to students that the United States monetary system offers various denominations or face values for coins and bills. For example, U.S. coins come in the following denominations: cent, nickel, dime, quarter, half-dollar, and dollar. Currently, U.S. paper currency is produced in the following denominations: $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 bills.
  2. Ask students to complete the following: How many different ways can you represent the value of $1.00 using coins only? There will be many variations to achieve the same answer. Brainstorm and record student responses on the board. The idea is to get students thinking about the fact that there are many ways of making change. The following is a sample of possible combinations:
    • 4 quarters
    • 3 quarters, 2 dimes, and 1 nickel
    • 2 quarters and 5 dimes
    • 2 quarters, 4 dimes, and 2 nickels
    • 2 quarters, 3 dimes, and 4 nickels
    • 1 quarter, 7 dimes, 1 nickel
    • 1 quarter, 7 dimes, 5 pennies
  3. Provide students with practice paying for school store items using coins of various denominations and in multiple combinations to arrive at the same amount. To complete the activity, pair students together and provide each group with the following:
    • Item cards - To create the 20 item cards, use index cards and the Geddes Kit List (PDF). Each item card will have a school store item and its corresponding retail price. For example, one card will state “Retro Pencil $.20 each”. Repeat this for all 20 items on the Geddes Kit List
    • Paying with Coins Guided Practice (PDF)
    • Calculator
    • Coins
    • Die
    • Pencils
  4. Guide students on the board or with an overhead transparency through the following example: The most expensive item on the Geddes Kit List (PDF) is the 6-Color Pen with a retail price of 75 cents. Assume the number six is rolled on the die.
    • What is the total cost of six 6-Color Pens?
      1. ( $4.50 = 6 x $0.75 The total cost of six 6-Color Pens is $4.50 )
    • Next, using coins only, what are two ways a school store customer could pay for the six pens?
    1. 18 quarters. 18 x $0.25 = $4.50
    2. 10 quarters + 20 dimes. ( 10 x $0.25 ) + ( 20 x $0.10 ) = $4.50
  5. Using the Paying with Coins Guided Practice PDF as a transparency guide students through another example using the following instructions:
    • Draw an item card (note: remove the 6-Color Pen item card since this was used as the in-class example).
    • Roll the die.
    • Calculate the total purchase price by multiplying the item card’s retail price by the quantity rolled on the die.
    • Provide two options for school customers to pay for their purchases using coins only.
    • Record results and answers on the Paying with Coins Guided Practice PDF transparency.
  6. Review several options as a class. Refer to Paying with Coins Answer Key (PDF) for examples.
  7. Present students with the following scenario:

    RG and Hannie are working at the Raymond Geddes Elementary School Store. The kindergarten class is scheduled to visit the store today. RG and Hannie will need to help the younger students make purchases.

    Can you help RG and Hannie determine what the kindergarten customers can buy based on how much money they bring to the store?

    Remember, the kindergarten customers have a limited amount of money and must stay within their individual budgets.

  8. To help complete the scenario pair students together and provide each group with a copy of the Kindergarten Customers Worksheet (PDF), bag of coins, and a copy of the Geddes Kit List (PDF). Explain and list on the board or as a transparency the following instructions:
    • Randomly pull five coins from a bag of coins and list them on your worksheet.
    • Find the sum of the five coins.
    • What can the kindergarten customers purchase from the school store with their six coins? Select items from the Geddes Kit List (PDF).
    • Encourage students to spend as much as possible using the six coins.
    • Ask students to offer two purchase options to the kindergarten customers and list them on the Kindergarten Customers Worksheet (PDF).
  9. As a class, review some of the results. Use the Kindergarten Customers Answer Key (PDF) for sample answers. How well did students advise the kindergarten customers and stay within budget? Discuss how useful it is to come up with various combinations when using coins to make a purchase or to make change. There are endless combinations to making change work for the same value amount of money!

Extended Learning and Practice

  1. As a community service project, begin a coin collecting fund raiser effort with your class by starting your own school store. Operating a school store is an excellent opportunity for inquiry-based, hands-on learning that is both fun and rewarding. A school store will allow opportunity for raising money, provides a service to students, and creates an atmosphere of responsibility while building valuable team working skills. Identify an organization that would benefit from the class fundraiser. Some possible organizations include the following:
  2. Visit the United States Department of the Treasury Learning Vault. The teacher link offers a variety of activities, resources, and projects.
  3. Ask students to use the Internet to identify the term for the study of money ( answer: Numismatics ). Have children visit the United States Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change website. The Camp Coin link has information about collecting coins as a hobby.


The lesson objectives can be assessed by evaluating the Paying with Coins Guided Practice (PDF) and the Kindergarten Customers Worksheet (PDF) with the Paying with Coins Answer Key (PDF) and the Kindergarten Customers Answer Key (PDF).

Use the Assessment of Student Progress (PDF) to assess students’ overall abilities to meet the lessons learning objectives which include using coins of various denominations and in multiple combinations to arrive at the same amount and making purchases within a budget.


Provide each student with an index card and have them answer the following questions on one side of the card:

  1. What are two new things that you have learned?
  2. What else would you like to learn about this topic?

On the back side of the index card, instruct the students to draw a picture of something they learned about during this lesson. The index cards can be hole punched and held together with a simple shower curtain ring.