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Representing Our Nation

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Students will use pennies to illustrate how our states are represented in Congress. This lesson is to be implemented during a unit covering the branches of United States government.

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent

Coin Program(s)

  • Generic


Students will learn about states' representation in the U.S. government.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Language Arts


  • Fifth grade
  • Sixth grade
  • Seventh grade
  • Eighth grade

Class Time

Sessions: One
Session Length: 45 minutes
Total Length: 0-45 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups
  • Individual work

Background Knowledge

  • Role of the Legislative branch of the U.S. Government
  • Roles of the Senate and House of Respresentatives

Terms and Concepts

  • Congress
  • Penny
  • State Representatives


  • Map of the United States for each group of 4 or 5 students
  • 1 bag of 485 pennies for each group


  • Introduce the students to the role of the Legislative branch of the U.S. government.
  • The students should understand the differences between the roles of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  1. Divide the class into groups of 4 or 5 students.

  2. Have each group research and list the number of representatives your own state has in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in the U.S. Congress.

  3. After the students have researched, distribute a set of coins and a map to each group.

  4. Have each group add the representatives from their state together and count out the same number of pennies as representatives. One penny will stand for one Congressperson.

  5. Ask the groups to place their pile of pennies on top of the state that they live in.

  6. Once each group has done this with their home state, have them divide the remaining 49 states among all the group members. Each group member should research the number of representatives from each state in their set.

  7. When the students have finished their research, have them create and place separate stacks of pennies (as done in steps 4 and 5) on each state, to designate that state’s number of representatives.

  8. When students finish their map, have each group discuss their observations about the map and the stacks of pennies.

  9. After this discussion, have each student write a paragraph about any trends or patterns they notice. They should also write about why certain states have more or fewer representatives than others.

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Rather than researching all the states, have students select three or four states of different size and in different parts of the country.
  • The students could create two separate maps, one for the Senate, and one for the House of Representatives. The groups could compare these two maps and discuss why they think the numbers of representatives are different in the two parts of Congress.


Play "Branches of Power" to reinforce the roles of the branches of the U.S. government at

Use the maps and paragraphs to evaluate whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

There are no related resources for this lesson plan.

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

This lesson plan is not associated with any National Standards.