Counting money: Ways to make learning fun

My daughter's second grade class is learning various coin denominations and how to count by ones, fives and tens. My daughter has difficulty conceptualizing the relationships when she is asked to count using coins. In an effort to make this task more interesting to her, I set up a "toy store" with all sorts of trinkets that she could purchase if she counted out the price of the item. Instead of this being a fun game, it has only added to her frustration. What can I do?

Question:

I think your idea of a toy store where she can purchase things is great! It can be difficult to come up with creative solutions to help children understand challenging concepts. I applaud your ingenuity and suggest that you try this idea again once she is more comfortable with skip counting.

The more immediate concern is your daughter's ability to count by ones, fives, and tens. You may want to purchase an inexpensive chart with the numbers 1 through 100 on it. You can buy one at an educational resource store or at an office supply store that carries teaching supplies. If you can't find one, you can make one using large graph paper or on poster board. Laminate the chart so that it will last and so that she can write on it. In addition to the chart, you can also purchase a set of overhead pens in different colors. Your daughter can use the chart when practicing her counting and you can help guide her. Perhaps she needs that visual in order to see the patterns in counting. Have her circle the numbers that she says when counting by fives with red. Then have her circle the numbers she says when counting by tens with blue. She will need to practice this daily until she can do it without looking at the numbers. Have her write the numbers as she counts, too, so that she is doing a hands-on activity.

Once she has mastered this concept, focus your attention on working with her to identify the coins. Perhaps she has not yet internalized that a nickel is a "five" when counting. She needs to handle the money and learn the label for each item. You can write the names for each kind of coin on a 3x5 card and then give her coins to match to those labels, for example. Once she has that mastered, she will then be able to use the money as counters when skip counting.

A less direct, but still effective strategy is to play board games with your child. Monopoly, Monopoly Jr., Life, Yahtzee and other games that use money and/or dice will strengthen her counting skills and allow you an opportunity to assist and assess her. In addition, they're a fun way for families to spend time together.

If she still struggles after trying these interventions, you should speak with her teacher regarding further instruction. She may have some additional ideas for you that are more specific to the curriculum being used.