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Lessons That Make Cents

January 2017

Lessons that STEM from Coins

STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and math.” In a global economy, it's important for students to be educated in STEM subjects. But studying STEM doesn't mean you have to work in a lab! In fact, many different careers use the problem-solving and innovative techniques taught in STEM, and these skills are in demand now more than ever.

Did you know the U.S. Mint uses science, technology, engineering and math to make coins?

Check out the links below for STEM-related lesson plans that teach about and through U.S. coins. You can also meet employees of the Mint and learn how they use STEM in their jobs to manufacture our nation's coins and medals.

Quarters in Orbit

Two quarters from the 50 State Quarters™ Program have been traveling aboard the New Horizons spacecraft since 2006. The Maryland State Quarter and the Florida State Quarter are more than 520 million kilometers past Pluto in the Kuiper Belt.

The quarters:

  • Were chosen to honor the states that designed (Maryland) and launched (Florida) the spacecraft
  • Have acted as spin balance weights during the trip

The quarter designers:

  • Illustrator Ralph Butler created the Florida design in a single sitting
  • William Krawczewicz, who designed the Maryland quarter, said he is honored to know his imagery is traveling the far reaches of space

Florida 50 State Quarter and Maryland 50 State Quarter

The Coins

The 2000 Maryland State Quarter obverse highlights a bust of President George Washington and features the inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “LIBERTY,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and “QUARTER DOLLAR.” The reverse highlights the Maryland Statehouse and is surrounded by White Oak leaf clusters and features the inscriptions “THE OLD LINE STATE,” “MARYLAND,” “1788,” “2000,” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM.”

The 2004 Florida State Quarter obverse highlights a bust of President George Washington and features the inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “LIBERTY,” “IN GOD WE TRUST,” and “QUARTER DOLLAR.” The reverse highlights the 16th-century Spanish galleon, an image of a space shuttle, and a strip of land with Sabal palm trees and features the inscriptions “FLORIDA,” “1845,” “GATEWAY TO DISCOVERY,” “2004,” and “E PLURIBUS UNUM.”

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Push or Pull (Grades K-4)

Students will understand that a force (pushing or pulling) can move an object.

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Amazing Metals (Grades K-8)

Students will participate in a guided investigation of metals, their properties, and their uses.

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Contact without Impact (Grades 9-12)

Students will evaluate how different modes of travel impact the environment. Students will propose persuasive solutions to reduce carbon footprints.

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Weather Watchers (Grades K-4)

After investigating several national sites (such as parks, forests, seashores, and battlefields), students will use the Internet to find the daily temperatures at chosen sites and at their home location.

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Live with Lewis and Clark! (Grades 5-8)

Students will demonstrate an understanding of the chronology of major events in the Corps of Discovery’s westward journey.

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The Change of a River (Grades 9-12)

Students will describe the changes that have affected the Missouri River over the past 200 years by identifying transformations in this area’s atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere.

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Courageous Builders (Grades K-4)

Students will define and give examples of courageousness. Students will describe the job of an ironworker and the related challenges.

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I Am Steel (Grades 5-8)

Students will analyze the movement of Americans and the Mohawk ironworkers from rural to urban areas for job opportunities.

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Building America (Grades 9-12)

Students will describe the Empire State Building and how Native Americans contributed to its construction. Students will research iconic American buildings and present their learning in a creative way.

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Measure Up! (Grades K-4)

Students will measure different objects using non-standard units of measurement.

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A Financial Flower Garden (Grades 5-8)

Students will expand their knowledge of whole number computation by solving problems involving multiplication and division.

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You Can Bank On It! (Grades 9-12)

Students will thoroughly understand the purpose and functions of the Federal Reserve System and its effect on our nation’s economy.

STEM and Art

Technology gets the coins and medals made, but do you ever wonder who designs them? Mint artists use these technologies to make our coins come alive and our YouTube channel is a great way to see our artists in action!

To see how designers use their artistic skills to create coins, watch the video.

To integrate art into your STEM programs, visit the following lesson plans:

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Shapes, Shapes, Everywhere! (Grades K-4)

Students will identify basic geometric shapes. Students will locate shapes in their environment.

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Colorful Colorado (Grades 5-8)

Students will explain the relationship between wavelength and the color of light.

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Photographic Memories (Grades 9-12)

Students will use photographic techniques as a means to document and raise awareness of environments.

More Lessons

Visit our lessons-by-coin-program page to learn more about United States history.

Changes Coming Soon

Please pardon our dust as we clean house. We know you love our games and toons. So do we! Which is why we're updating them to meet your increasingly mobile needs. In the meantime, keep an eye out for games and activities offered by other organizations while we strike up something new.