Differentiated Math Fact Practice

Making Ten

4th Grade Resources

Teaching Kids to Count Money Step by Step

I'm sure you've heard it said before, "When will I ever use this," about many math concepts.  And it might be true that some higher level math skills won't be used if you aren't in a career with a math focus.  But there are many math skills that we use in our daily lives and counting money is one of them.  Teaching kids to count money is one of those skills that our students will use for the rest of their lives.  So we owe it to them to guide them to mastery on this skill.  

step by step approach to teaching kids how to count money

Before You Teach Kids to Count Money

skip counting is an important precursor to teaching kids to count coinsBefore jumping in to counting money, it is really important that kids know how to skip count by 5's, 10's and 25's.  The more fluently they can skip count the more fluently they will be able to count money.  Obviously, counting by 1's is also an important foundational skill that will help kids learn to count money.  

Your students don't need to have mastered skip counting, but having an understanding of the concept will be very important.  If they cannot skip count by memory then it will also be important to have a skip counting tool in place that they can use as they count money.

Step 1: The Value of Coins

The first step in teaching kids to count money is to make sure that they can identify each of the coins and its value.  Students should be able to identify a coin by both the front and back side, give its name and how much it is worth.  

Step 2: Sorting the Coins

One of the easiest ways to teach kids to count money is to start by sorting the coins into groups.  Once you have all of the same coin together, the next step will be much easier.  Later, as students find counting coins easier, you can skip this step and keep the coins mixed up.  But for starting out, this sorting step will make the rest of the process easier for the students.

sorting coins is the first step in counting money

Step 3: Start with the Biggest Value and Count On

Have students find the coins with the biggest value.  Then show students that since all of the coins in that group have the same value they can use skip counting to count them.  If you are using actual coins, have students count as they touch the coin and drag it into a new pile.

If you are using pictures of coins on a worksheet or practice page, have students write in the value of each coin on the picture.  Then have them skip count starting with the biggest value.  

Once they skip counted all the coins with the largest value, then move to the coins with the next largest value.  Start counting where you left off and just adjust what you are skip counting by.  Here's an example:

how to skip count as you count money example

In this picture you can see 3 quarters, 3 dimes and 5 pennies.  This is what the counting process should sound like for this group of coins - quarter first, then dimes, pennies last.  This is what it should sound like:
25 - 50 - 75 - 85 - 95 - 105 - 106 - 107 - 108 - 109- 110

This process is called Counting On and it is one of the easiest ways to teach kids how to count coins.  In fact, although as an adult you probably don't think about each of these steps, it is very likely that this is how you count money without even realizing it.

Teaching kids to count money doesn't have to be hard if you follow these steps.  Start with one coin and work through the steps.  When students can count multiples of each individual coin then move to two different coins in the group and work through the steps.  Once students can count two different coins then add a third coin and work through the steps.  Just slowly build upon the last lesson as students show that they are ready!  

When people tell me they are having problems with their class learning to count money I immediately wonder what step they are missing.  After a few minutes of talking I can usually pin point the problem, and it always comes back to the steps.  Sometimes they don't have a skip counting foundation and other times they jump from Step 1 to multiple coins Step 3 and just skip over the step by step approach.  

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once students have learned the steps for counting coins, they need to practice, practice and practice so more!  

Hands-On Practice

One of my favorite ways to practice counting coins is to play a game called Grab Bag!  Here I take a small bag of coins and have each randomly grab a few from the bag.  Then we practice going through the steps and counting the coins.

The great thing about the Grab Bag is that you can fill the bag with the coins you are working on, or the coins your kids are struggling with.  So, if you are working on counting by pennies and nickels, then you would only put pennies and nickels in the bag.  This makes it really easy to differentiate for your students.  This is a really fun game to play during small group instruction.  Once students can count coins independently, you can use the Grab Bag game as a math center.

Written Practice

Money Counting Practice Pages are another great way to practice counting coins.  My favorite counting coins practice pages are in this Time & Money set!  

time and money practice set by Mrs. Balius

What I love about this set is that it includes instructional posters and practice pages in an order that supports kids from the beginning to more advanced coin counting.  The instructional posters can be used as you teach your lessons and then hung in the room to provide a learning tool that your students can refer back to.  

sample instructional posters for teaching kids to count money

These posters will take you from Step 1 all the way through the coin counting process.  You even get posters for the most advanced activities which requires students to apply what they know to a real world situation in the "Do I Have Enough" activities.

Next comes the variety of practice pages that will give your students the repeated practice necessary to learn and master this skill.  First, students work on counting money that is all one coin.  Then they work on counting money that is displayed in a line, already in order by value. Next they will have to order the money on their own when the coins are left in a random group.  Finally, they will apply what they have learned to decide if they have enough money to buy something.

sample practice pages for teaching kids to count money

You can also find these activities in digital format too!  Students can complete these activities using Google Slides which makes them perfect for classroom technology integration, distance learning, or a 1:1 classroom setting.  

digital activities for counting money

Students will type into text boxes and move objects to provide their answers on the digital activities.  Look at the digital activities in action.

Get Counting!

Grab these fun and interactive counting money activities (and get some fun activities for learning to tell time too)!

If you aren't quite ready, then pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board so that you can come back quickly when you it's time to teach your students all about counting coins.


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