Teaching Children Money with Gattegno - Play Discover Learn 24/7

Teaching Children Money with Gattegno

teaching children money

Teaching children money was the best decision I made to liven up our number studies and I have five money activities to share with you. Recently, our Gattegno's number studies had become stale.

I purchased play money to help jump start teaching the children about money. I am very hesitant about buying another manipulative, but I am glad I did. It created a frenzy of learning in our house which meant tackling large numbers and even decimals.

Let’s dive into the five money activities we played these past couple of weeks.

5 Activities for Teaching Children Money

Like any manipulative, we began with free play. This turned into a free day though. There was a lot of selling and buying of toys, books and what have you. The kids enjoyed this immensely and you can see my “play money” recommendation at the end.

My children are familiar with money, but this is the first time they had access to so much play money. It led to a lot of exciting counting. The excitement generated an easy transition into more structured money activities.

Teaching Children Money with Number Studies

I had thought teaching children money was going to be difficult, but I realized it is just a number study with decimals and dollar signs. I was ready to conquer this Gattegno style.

teaching children money number studies

For the first money activity, we explored all the ways to build a monetary value. I began with a quarter and asked the children what coins could they use to build the value of a quarter. It was a simple and easy task. They each delighted in their own unique solution.

We did our best to exhaust many ways to build the value of a quarter using other coins. Then, we moved to whiteboard because dealing strictly with coins stunted their creativity. The children created only addition equations. I desired for them to explore subtraction, multiplication, fractions and division.

I grew the value to 50 cents and then $1. Then to $5, $20, $50 and $100. The children got very excited as the value grew. They created varying solutions from subtraction to multiplication to a combination of many math structures. After a couple of days, the children were ready to move on to a new money activity.

Teaching Children Money with the Substitute Game

subsitute game playing with money

Number studies are a great primer for the substitute game. We transitioned into playing this game first with play money. I pulled out a coin or paper bill. Then I asked them to substitute the value with other coins or paper bills. With each new coin added to the equation, the equation expanded, until at last, there was only pennies.

The kids loved this hands-on approach to the substitute game. Again, it stunted their creativity in making interesting equations, so we moved the game to the whiteboard.

When I noticed the kids create boring, easy equations, I provided constraints that extended them outside their comfort zone. During a round, the children had to add a fraction, multiplication or a square root.

Micah struggled to create an equation with division, so we took a break from the substitution game to play a different money activity to help him.

Dividing the Profits Money Activity for Kids

In this activity, I grabbed a sum of paper bills and coins and piled it into the middle of the floor. Then, I set the stage with a story that this money was our profits we earned, and now, we needed to divide it evenly. I asked Micah to divide it evenly amongst the four of us.

teaching children to divide money

I let him struggle with it, and I didn’t provide him any help except to tell him he could trade any bill for smaller bills or coins. I waited, and he began to manipulate the money.

Did he find the easiest path? No. He took quite the long way about it the first few times. I knew this is exactly what Gattegno would want, to back off and be silent. Experience of the long way drives a person to look for short-cuts.  I had to trust the natural inclination of all people, laziness. 

We all want to accomplish the job with the least amount of effort.  We drive towards efficiency.  Too often as adults, we want to override this experience by handing the short-cut to the child.  However, we do a great disservice to them.  I talk more about that in this post

I gave the other kids similar piles of money to divide, and we did this only with play money. Division taught through algorithms had been meaningless to my children. Playing with large sums of money and coinage seemed to make light bulbs go off for them.

Teaching Children Money with “If, Then” Statements

teaching children to think with money

If you thought I wasn’t going to pull out any Cuisenaire rods for teaching children money, you are mistaken. You may have remembered that I made task cards for changing the value of a rod a while back.

I figured why not change the rod to equal a monetary value? This mind-stretching activity always slows down my children to think a little harder. “If the orange rod equals ten dollars, what does the red rod equals?”

We started off easy and then move into stumping each other. “If the orange rod equals $12.50, what does 2 orange rods and a white equal?”

Teaching Children Money with Stories

Alright, I am currently working on an entire unit on Money with Literacy and Entrepreneur activities included. You will see the "If, Then" activity as well as the number study and substitute activities.

I am hoping it will be finished and many of the money activities I have talked about today have been included in the packet. Be sure to follow my store to be notified when I upload it.  One of the kids’ favorite activity though is the comic book.

teaching kids money through stories

It is a cute story to help children remember simple steps for counting change back. CountUrChange back is the main character of the story, and this green alien learns how to count change back with help of an earthling running a lemonade stand.

We store information in stories and stories that make us laugh are stories we remember. My kids loved laughing and reading this story over and over. They also loved coloring it, too. This is just one of the many fun activities included and I hope to complete the bundle by the end of the summer.

Wonderful books like "Pigs will be Pigs" are a great add to your money activities.  Using play money while reading the book will make this a fun hands-on activity.  Children have a tendency to just glaze over the details in math stories, and that is why a manipulative is so important to use.  

money activities for kids

My kids loved turning each page and pulling out the exact amount from the money tray.​  It also led to discussion about coins and bills we didn't have like the two dollar bill and a fifty cent piece. We explored all the alternatives to these missing currency.  It was a fun way of using stories to conduct number studies. 

I hope you enjoyed these activities for teaching children about money. Be sure to join us in our Facebook group for more fun, and maybe we can convince Sonya to do a Monday session on money.

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Lacy | Play Discover Learn 24/7

Knowing the best kind of learning comes from a highly motivated internal drive, Lacy Coker cultivates tools and resources that help to make learning for young children playful and self-directed.

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