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All Coins Lead to Rome…

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Students will compare and contrast modern U.S. coins with those of ancient times by looking at various coins on hand and through research in coin books in the classroom. This lesson is part of the Unit Plan “Ancient and Modern Coins.”

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter
  • Half dollar
  • Dollar

Coin Program(s)

  • Generic


  • Students will compare and contrast modern U.S. coins with those of ancient times, especially Greece and Rome, by looking at various coins on hand and through research in coin books in the classroom.
  • Students will observe a coin's features. They will use these observations to classify and sort coins.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts
  • Science


  • Third grade
  • Fourth grade
  • Fifth grade
  • Sixth grade
  • Seventh grade
  • Eighth grade

Class Time

Sessions: One
Session Length: 90 minutes
Total Length: 46-90 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Terms and Concepts

  • Ancient coins
  • Coins
  • Greece
  • History
  • Rome
  • Symbols
  • U.S. coins


  • Access to the Internet.
  • The United States Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change&#trade; Web site at
  • Handouts with images of ancient coins and currently circulating U.S. coins
  • Books that give information on coins and coin making, such as:
    • Cobblestone Magazine, “A Look Inside the U.S. Mint,” September, 1985.
    • Roman History From Coins by Michael Grant
    • North American Coins and Prices, 9th edition, edited by David C. Harper
    • Handbook of Ancient Greek and Roman Coins by Klawans, Zander
    • Collecting Coins for Pleasure and Profit by Barry Krause
    • Facts and Fictions about Coins:  An Uncommon Guidebook to the Wonderful World of Numismatics  by Leon Lindheim
    • Official 2001 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins published by Random House, Inc.
    • How to Build A Coin Collection by Fred Reinfeld
    • Coins as Living History by Ted Schwarz
    • Art In Coinage by Carol H.V. Sutherland, Carol H.V
    • A Guidebook of United States Coins, 53rd edition, 2001 by R.S. Yeoman


Use the Internet to gather reference materials for your students relating to U.S. coins as well as ancient Roman and Greek coins and symbols.

  1. Gather together many different types and denominations of U.S. coins. Also obtain U.S. coin books from the library, the United States Mint, or a coin dealer. Discuss with your students some interesting points about ancient Rome and Greece and about symbols on coins.
  2. Divide the class into groups. Have the groups brainstorm all the ways they can classify the coins. What symbols are on each coin? What phrases are on the coin, and what do they mean for America? Who or what is depicted on the obverse and reverse? What can you find out about the person or place or objects? Which of the symbols may have been associated with ancient Rome or Greece ? Have students look at their worksheets and see what images were actually used on ancient coins.
  3. As a class, decide on the different ways the coins can be categorized. Examples include by mint mark, by date, and by symbols.
  4. Give each student a coin. Have them write all the observations they can make about the coin and classify it using the categories they agreed on as a class.
  5. Have the students get back into their groups and put all of their coins in the middle of the table.
  6. Have students exchange the observations they wrote and see if the rest of the group can pick out their coin based on the description.

Differentiated Learning Options

The quarters of the United States Mint's 50 State Quarters® Program have symbols on the reverse that are important to each state. Have students research why a state committee selected those symbols to represent the state. Information on these quarters is available in the Kids section of the United States Mint H.I.P. Pocket Change™ Web site and and free educational materials in the Teachers section.

  • Teachers can use the coin descriptions created by the students to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.
  • Other students can also comment on the writing when they exchange descriptions and try to find the coin described.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: RL.1 Reading: Informational Text
Grade(s): Grade 1
Cluster: Key Ideas and Details

  • RI.1.1. Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • RI.1.2. Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
  • RI.1.3. Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: Time, Continuity, and Change
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • assist learners to understand that historical knowledge and the concept of time are socially influenced constructions that lead historians to be selective in the questions they seek to answer and the evidence they use
  • help learners apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity
  • enable learners to identify and describe significant historical periods and patterns of change within and across cultures, including but not limited to, the development of ancient cultures and civilizations, the emergence of religious belief systems, the rise of nation-states, and social, economic, and political revolutions
  • guide learners in using such processes of critical historical inquiry to reconstruct and interpret the past, such as using a variety of sources and checking their credibility, validating and weighing evidence for claims, searching for causality, and distinguishing between events and developments that are significant and those that are inconsequential
  • provide learners with opportunities to investigate, interpret, and analyze multiple historical and contemporary viewpoints within and across cultures related to important events, recurring dilemmas, and persistent issues, while employing empathy, skepticism, and critical judgment; and enable learners to apply ideas, theories, and modes of historical inquiry to analyze historical and contemporary developments, and to inform and evaluate actions concerning public policy issues.

Discipline: Science
Domain: 5-8 Content Standards
Cluster: Science as Inquiry
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Ability necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understand scientific inquiry

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Applying Strategies to Writing
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

Discipline: Language Arts
Domain: All Language Arts Standards
Cluster: Applying Strategies to Text
Grade(s): Grades K–12

  • Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound–letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).

Discipline: Social Studies
Domain: All Thematic Standards
Cluster: People, Places, and Environment
Grade(s): Grades K–12

Teachers should:

  • Enable learners to use, interpret, and distinguish various representations of Earth such as maps, globes, and photographs, and to use appropriate geographic tools
  • Encourage learners to construct, use, and refine maps and mental maps, calculate distance, scale, area, and density, and organize information about people, places, regions, and environments in a spatial context
  • Help learners to locate, distinguish, and describe the relationships among varying regional and global patterns of physical systems such as landforms, climate, and natural resources, and explain changes in the physical systems
  • Guide learners in exploring characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth’s surface
  • Have learners describe how people create places that reflect culture, human needs, current values and ideals, and government policies
  • Provide opportunities for learners to examine, interpret, and analyze interactions of human beings and their physical environments, and to observe and analyze social and economic effects of environmental changes, both positive and negative
  • Challenge learners to consider, compare, and evaluate existing uses of resources and land in communities, regions, countries, and the world
  • Direct learners to explore ways in which Earth’s physical features have changed over time, and describe and assess ways historical events have influenced and been influenced by physical and human geographic features