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Teacher Feature

Money Matters!


With this fun activity, students get to build a piggy bank and experiment with coin denominations.

It would be a great idea to have parents or community volunteers to join you for this class art project, as papier-mâché can be a little messy!  In addition, each group of students will be using scissors, so added supervision will be necessary.


Separate the class into groups of about three students, with each group creating one papier-mâché piggy bank, as instructed in the "Money Hungry Piggy Bank" activity.  When completing step 8, be sure to have an adult cut a hole in the top of the piggy bank that is large enough for a student's hand to get through.  This will be important later on when students need to retrieve items from inside the piggy bank.

Distribute the Paper Coins Handout.  Explain to the students that the goal of this activity is for their group to earn more money than any other group.  In order to do this, they will need to listen carefully and work together.

Read the first question, being sure to give the group a few moments to discuss their answer.  Each group will then cut out the picture of their answer from the Paper Coins Handout and place it in the piggy bank.  Continue by reading the rest of the questions, and allowing students the same amount of time to discuss and answer each one.

Group Questions

Would you rather have...

  1. 4 cents (pennies) or 2 nickels?
  2. 1 dime or 9 pennies?
  3. 1 quarter or 6 nickels?
  4. 1 dime or 13 pennies?
  5. 3 nickels or 12 pennies?
  6. 8 quarters or 18 dimes?
  7. 2 quarters or 9 nickels?
  8. 3 half dollars or 12 dimes?
  9. 2 half dollars or 4 dimes and a hafl dollar?
  10. 7 quarters or 1 half dollar, 3 dimes, 2 nickels, 6 pennys?

At the end of the exercise, have each group open their piggy banks and count all of the coins inside.  As they add up their money, be sure to remind them that their totals need to be reported in dollars and cents.

Have the winning group field any questions the other groups may have.  When answering a question, the group needs to explain not only the answer they selected for that question, but also why that answer was selected.  (i.e. "We selected choice two for number one.  In choice one, four pennies adds up to four cents.  But in the second choice, two nickels adds up to ten cents.  Ten cents is more than four cents.)


This is an activity that can be extended throughout the school year, with increasingly difficult questions.  As students become more comfortable with coins, they may be able to generate a list of questions to challenge other groups.

Each group can create and maintain a running tally of their money in the bank.  At the end of the year, all groups can use their money to buy rewards or privileges.


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:

Language Arts Standards

Demonstrate competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading proces.  Students will listen to questions as they are read aloud.  They will also need to listen to, and take into account the ideas of the peers in their group.

Mathematics Standards

Problem Solving:  Students will work in groups to generate answers to the activity questions.

Number and Operations:  Students will use addition and multiplication to figure out the total value of each of the coin combinations.

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