Activities to Practice Counting Coins

Money is one of my favorite math topics.  Maybe it's because it lends itself so easily to hands-on learning.

Teaching how to count coins

In second grade, most of the money activities we do are centered around counting combinations of coins.  Rather than spend a few weeks covering this skill and then moving on, I make a point of revisiting it as often as I possibly can throughout the school year.

Here are a few of my go to activities.  Be sure to pin your favorites!

Pay the Banker
Back in the day, when people still used cameras with film, I hit up our local drugstore photo counter and asked if they could donate any empty film canisters they had.  And, they did!  I turned those little canisters into banks by cutting a slit into the lid. On the front of each individual bank, I wrote an amount of money using a silver Sharpie.

To this day, I still use these banks.  When the kids use them, they do so with a partner.  I give each pair of students several banks and a baggie of money.  The banker selects a bank and tells the other student (the customer) to pay the amount shown on the bank. Then, the banker counts the coins to make sure they got all their money. They take turns being the banker.  The kids love this simple little game, and it is the perfect filler for when we have 10-15 minutes before moving on to our next subject area.

The teacher in me loves that this activity lets the students easily work at their own level. They can use any combination of coins to pay the banker.  So, if they owe the banker 93 cents, they could pay it with 9 dimes and 3 pennies, or they could use a mix of coins if they are at that level. The teacher in me also loves how easy it is to prep: simply bag up some coins, store them in your closet, and grab them when you need them.

I haven't used a camera that uses actual film in a very long time and have no idea if they still exist.  So, in case these little canisters are now extinct, here are a few alternatives to the film canister idea:
  • bathroom sized plastic cups (I realize they don't have a lid but they would definitely work)
  • multi-purpose mini cups that are often used to hold salad dressing (you probably wouldn't want anything smaller than the 4 oz. size because you need space for the coins to be inserted into the container)

Hands-On Activities
Hands-on math is the best, and counting coins lends itself beautifully to this.  After all, using real money is a real life hands-on skill. And, hands-on learning is both fun and engaging.  What's not to love, right?

My students love this valuable words activity.  They use the key to find the value of each letter in a word, draw them, and then add up the value of the word.

Sometimes, I don't even use the word cards.  Sometimes, I write words on the recording page before I copy it.  And, sometimes, I let the kids pick their own words!

Anytime I give my students an activity that involves rolling dice, they are happy campers. So, it was no surprise when they ended up loving this activity.

They rolled their die 4 times (but you could have them roll it however many times you want).  Each time, they rolled, they drew the coins that matched the number they rolled.  Then, they added them up.  I like to give my students access to plastic coins whenever they do these sorts of activities.  Some of them prefer to interact with the coins and order them in a way that works best for them when adding up the total value. 

Scoops of coins is another great hands-on activity that my students love.  I place small bowls of coins at each table group along with some plastic spoons. The students take a scoop of coins, draw them, and count them up. 

To differentiate this activity, set up your bowls accordingly.  For students who aren't ready for quarters yet, make sure their bowls don't include any. Maybe those students start by scooping dimes, nickels, and pennies.  For students who are excelling in counting any and all combinations of coins, give them bowls with quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies, and task them with counting up the value of two scoops of coins.

I love using cut and paste activities when I can too.  They require that the students pay attention to detail, in addition to practicing an important math skill.  Plus, they are a great way to get in a bit of cutting and gluing practice.  Whenever I put these activities out, I also put out bowls of coins for students who might need them.  Some kids like to use the plastic coins because they need that added support.

In my experience, paper clips are just as exciting as rolling dice.  My students go crazy for spinner activities.  This activity can be used a few ways, students can spin an amount and then color in the coins that add up to that amount.  But, it can also be used where the kids draw a combination of coins that adds up to the amount they spin.

All of these activities, plus many more, can be found in my Cha-Ching {Counting Coins} unit on TPT.  The activities were created to help you differentiate with ease and you can easily reuse many of the activities throughout the school year because students will likely encounter different combinations of coins every time. 

Race to a Dollar
I have loved this game for forever.  It makes an appearance every year in my classroom.  Students take turns collecting and trading coins, and the first to make one dollar is the winner!

Here's a breakdown of the game:
  • It is played in pairs. 
  • Players take turns rolling the die and collecting the number of pennies that matches the number they roll (if they roll a 3, they collect 3 pennies).  
  • Before passing the die to the other player, the first player looks to see if they can make any trades (5 pennies for a nickel, 5 pennies and a nickel for dime, two dimes and a nickel for a quarter, and so on). 
  • Players continue to take turns collecting and trading coins. 
  • The first player to get to $1.00 is the winner!  
**TIP: I have always found that the students are most successful with this game from the get go when I take the time to model it. They usually need to see the trades in action so that they can more easily follow that step when playing independently.  I like to sit on the carpet in a circle and play against another student so they can see how it works.  This always leads to a more successful experience for the students.    

You don't need a lot of materials to play this game, just some coins, a dollar bill, and a die.  I literally put a bunch of coins (no, I don't count them out) into a zip top bag, along with the dollar bill, a die, and a copy of the directions.  Keeping them bagged and ready for use makes them the perfect filler or math station activity.

Once your students get this version down, play with dollar bills!  Each time they roll the die, they collect that many one dollar bills.  The game is played the same way, but the first player to get to $100 is the winner.  My students love this version too!

You can grab directions for both versions of this game HERE.

**TIP: If you want to save paper, you could project the directions on your board for students to look at while they play the game. 

Thanks for stopping by today!

Teaching kids how to count coins

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  1. Wow these are amazingly helpful! Thank you!

    1. I'm thrilled to hear that they were helpful, Christina! Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. :)


  2. These look great! I will be purchasing the unit for my resource classroom. Thank you!

    1. Hi Heather!

      Thank you so much! I'm so glad you liked the ideas, and I'm so grateful that you took the time to comment. Have a good one!



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