Thursday, May 1, 2008

May 2008: Robert Boehler, Coin Value Master


May 2008 America Learns Global Strategy of the Month

If you've ever been a volunteer reading tutor, there's a good chance that your student has presented you with a math question.

Despite any guidance you received during trainings to tell your student's teacher or the student herself that you're just there for reading, it's awfully tough to tell your student, "Sorry, can't help. Let's work on reading instead."

We've seen a countless number of reading tutors experience this challenge over the past five years. Thankfully, we've been lucky to have a number of amazing math tutors in our community who have shared some phenomenal resources. And here's where Robert Boehler comes in. Robert developed an engaging strategy that helped a number of the students served by IUPUI America Counts math coaches to develop a meaningful understanding of coin and dollar values.

Robert BoehlerRobert, who will soon have his own elementary school classroom, told us that when it comes to teaching math, he's all about making sure that his students understand HOW math works (not just how to plug in an algorithm). We're sure that the children you serve will gain a meaningful understanding of these core money-value concepts from the activity.

The Strategy


Created by: Robert Boehler, America Reads and America Counts Programs at IUPUI (Network member since 2007)
Topics: Money; Financial Literacy; Counting; Addition; Subtraction
Grade Levels: First - Third
Arrangements: One-on-One; Small Group
- One die
- Coin and dollar bill cut-outs (or actual coins and dollar bills)
- Coin equivalencies sheet

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Situation: This is a learning activity that focuses on developing students’ understanding of the value of coins and the concept of equivalent values.
Step 1: Using the coin cut-outs, show students the different denominations of coins, and ask them to tell you the names and values of each one.

Then, ask questions such as the following, and ask students to make the exchanges on their own using the cut-outs.
- “How many pennies are in a nickel?”
- “How many nickels are in a quarter?”
- “How many dimes are in a dollar?”
- “Using the largest value coins, how can you make twenty-five cents?” “fifty cents?”, “one dollar?”

Step 2: Explain the rules of the game to your students.

Inform student(s) that you (the coach) are the banker who has all the money. Students will get money by rolling the die. When students roll an odd number (1, 3, or 5), they’ll get that number in pennies. When they roll an even number, they won’t receive anything.

Tell students that at the beginning of each turn, they’ll be able to ask the banker to exchange their coins for the next highest currency (e.g., five pennies for a nickel).

The first person to exchange their coins for a one-dollar bill wins! If you need to end the game before you reach a dollar, note that a student who has one dime will win over the student with ten pennies, since a dime has a higher currency than a penny. Emphasize this point with your students before starting to play.

Step 3: As you play the game…

Your students should be continually observing and counting their coins in order to know when they can exchange their coins for the next highest currency. If they do not initiate the coin exchange on their own, remind them of the beginning exercise where they traded up to greater coin denominations (five pennies for a nickel). If they need further assistance ask questions such as, “which coin has the same value as your five pennies?” Or “are your five dimes the highest coin values you can have to make fifty cents?”

If needed, provide your students with copies of a coin equivalencies worksheet. Let them use the sheet to help them determine when they can exchange their smaller currency coins for higher value coins with the banker. As they become more proficient in understanding coin value equivalencies, challenge them to play without the guide.

Step 4: The first person who exchanges their coins for a one-dollar bill wins!

Note: a student who has earned a value of $1.00 in coins is not an automatic winner since the student has not successfully traded their coins for higher currencies.

Step 5: Moving into financial literacy

You can continue to play and extend this game to meet your students’ needs. For example, you can change the amount of money each student receives with each roll, assign a specific number on the die where the student must give money back to the banker (this is particularly effective in helping your students understand the concept of making change), or alter the winning amount of money students must obtain.

CentCity’s Two Cents


Felix Brandon Lloyd, founder and Principal of the global financial literacy firm CentsCity, notes that the strategy also begins to help students focus on financial literacy skills:

"The very last paragraph in the strategy is where things get most interesting to me. The idea of certain values on the die requiring the student to give back money (or perhaps even requiring another student to give back or donate money to a common pot) adds an even more dynamic element and seems to be where the main skill sets being reinforced become more sophisticated for this age group."

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Robert by clicking the grey “Comments” link below.

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