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Teacher Feature

Metals for Minting


In honor of the 3-cent silver coin, students will use the Periodic Table to learn information about the elements (metals) used to mint coins.


After reading October 2005's Coin of the Month page, review the background information on the 3-cent piece, or "trime."  The trime was created in correlation with the United States Post Office to help make buying the new 3-cent stamps easier.  The nickel-based trime was minted between 1865 and 1889 and the silver trime was minted from 1851 through 1873.  There are 9 years of overlap in minting the trime with two different metals.  Discuss with the students how historic events like the Civil War and Gold Rush had a direct impact on the trime.  Display a Periodic Table for the students to see.  Take the students through a "tour" of the table, pointing out the key points each element has, such as a symbol and atomic number.  Explain how the table is organized into families and groups.  Choose a few elements (non-metals) to examine in more detail.  Discuss elements in the chart pointing out the symbol, atomic number, atomic weight (mass), melting and boiling points.  Have students learn more about elements in the Periodic Table using Web sites, such as:

Instruct the students to independently complete the Periodic Table Practice worksheet using available resources.  The worksheet will be an assessment of the activity.  Review the worksheet as a class upon completion.


Some coins were minted from unusual metals.  Using the "Periodic Table Practice" worksheet for information, have the students research and give an example of what coin was minted from each kind of metal listed on the chart.  Students should then create their own chart showing their findings including the name of the coin, date(s), denomination and origin.


The project described above reflects some of the national standards of learning as defined by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and the International Society for Technology in Education.  These standards are listed below:

Science Standards

Physical science:  Students will use the Periodic Table to investigate basic properties of metals used to make coins

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