Coin Connections (Illinois)


Students will learn to identify a cent (penny), nickel, dime and quarter and assign the correct values to each.

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters


Students will learn to identify a cent (penny), nickel, dime and quarter and assign the correct values to each.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Math
  • Social Studies


  • K
  • 1st

Class Time

  • Sessions: Three
  • Session Length: 20-30 minutes
  • Total Length: 91-120 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Pairs

Background Knowledge

Students should have a basic knowledge of:

  • Cents
  • More (greater) than
  • Less than

Terms and Concepts

  • Penny
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter
  • Obverse (front)
  • Reverse (back)
  • Value
  • More, less, equal to
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Circulating coins


  • 1 overhead projector (optional)
  • 1 overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Illinois quarter reverse
  • 1 class map of the United States of America
  • Pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters
  • Envelopes
  • Magnifying device
  • Scissors
  • Brown crayons and/or colored pencils
  • Coat hangers
  • Yarn
  • Glue
  • Copies of the "Money Mobile" worksheet
  • Copies of the "Cent Sense" handout
  • Copies of the "Value Tags" page


  • Make an overhead transparency (or photocopy) of the Illinois quarter reverse.
  • Make copies of the "Money Mobile" worksheet (1 per student).
  • Make copies of the "Cent Sense" worksheet (1 per pair).
  • Make copies of the Value Tags (4 tags, one of each denomination, per student)
  • Assemble envelopes of Value Tags (1 per pair of students).
  • Assemble envelopes of coins containing one penny, one nickel, one dime and one quarter (1 per pair of students).


Worksheets and files (PDF)

Lesson Steps

Session 1

  1. Describe the 50 State Quarters Program for background information, if necessary, using the example of your own state, if available. Then display the transparency or photocopy of the Illinois quarter reverse. Locate Illinois on a classroom map. Note its position in relation to your school's location.
  2. Ask if they know who the man is pictured on the coin. Take suggestions, prompting students to consider how he is dressed and what he is holding, etc.
  3. Share "The Land of Lincoln" motto on the coin with the students. Ask if that might give a clue to the identity of the man.
  4. Help students conclude that the man pictured is Abraham Lincoln, former president of the United States of America, and that Illinois came to be his home state. When discussing Lincoln, relate his rise to the presidency to how he is depicted on the coin: dressed as a farm hand, setting aside his farm tools in favor of a law book. Note: Depending on your students' background knowledge, you may need to explain that although President Lincoln was born in Kentucky and raised in Indiana, Lincoln moved to Illinois at the age of 21 where he studied and later became a lawyer. It is there that he rose to greatness and later was buried.
  5. Ask the students to name another circulating (everyday) coin on which Lincoln appears, soliciting the correct response.
  6. Give each student a penny and ask if they know which side of the coin Lincoln appears on—the obverse (front) or the reverse (back).
  7. Tell the students that Lincoln actually appears on both sides. Using a magnifying device, have students locate Lincoln on the reverse. Tell students if they inspect it carefully, they will see the statue of Lincoln inside the monument. (Provide background information on the Lincoln Memorial as necessary.)

Session 2

  1. With the release of the Illinois quarter, Lincoln is the first person to be pictured on two circulating coins at the same time: the penny and the quarter (with Illinois reverse). Tell students now that they know how the penny and the quarter are connected through Abraham Lincoln, they are going to explore the relationship of these coins in more detail.
  2. Give each student a "Money Mobile" worksheet, a pair of scissors and a brown crayon and/or colored pencil.
  3. Ask students to cut out the four enlarged coins.
  4. Have the students hold up the enlarged penny. Model the correct choice (using overhead transparencies, coin manipulatives or the same enlarged penny). Ask the students to state the value of a penny. Confirm that a penny is worth one cent.
  5. Using the brown crayon or colored pencil, instruct students to trace around the real penny on the back of the enlarged penny in front of them. (Model this action if necessary.) Ask them to set the large penny to one side.
  6. Ask students to hold up the enlarged nickel. Again, model the correct choice. Ask students to state the value of a nickel. Confirm that a nickel is worth five cents, which means it's the same as five pennies (count out five pennies as a class and display them in a way that the entire class can see).
  7. Instruct the students to turn the enlarged nickel over. Using the brown crayon or colored pencil, have them trace the number of pennies that equal a nickel on the back of the enlarged nickel in front of them. (Model this action again if necessary).
  8. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 with the dime and the quarter.
  9. As a class, have the students examine each enlarged coin and review the number of pennies that make a nickel, a dime, and a quarter.
  10. Work with the students to assemble the four coin cut-outs into a mobile using a coat hanger and yarn. (Place the penny at the top of the coat hanger and have the three other coins hang from the bottom in ascending order.)

Session 3

  1. Briefly review the concepts of greater than and less than with the class.
  2. Put the students into pairs, giving one student an envelope of value tags and the other an envelope of coins (containing a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter). Also pass out a "Cent Sense" handout to each pair of students, telling them to fill in the player names appropriately.
  3. Direct each student to select an item from his or her envelope without looking.
  4. At the same time, the pair of students will place their value tag or coin on the desk. By comparing the value tag to the coin, the students will determine who displayed the greater amount.
  5. The student displaying the greater amount will then color in one penny mark in his or her column of the "Cent Sense" handout. If the students have a "tie" (for example, one student draws a 5 cent value tag and the other draws the nickel), both students should color in a penny mark.
  6. The students should put their value tag and coin back in the envelope and randomly select again.
  7. Time permitting, students may continue playing this game until one student has filled in all 25 pennies, or until both students have filled in all 25 pennies.
    Note: Play may be broken into sessions. For example, play to "a nickel" or "dime" one day (reaching 5 or 10 wins) and a "quarter" on another (ending with 25 wins).

Differentiated Learning Options

  • Have more advanced students add the total value represented by the coin and the value tag placed during the game. Have students write this amount on their "Cent Sense" handout as they play.
  • For struggling learners, provide coin images with the coin values written on them. Also, stamp an image of the associated coin on each value tag.


  • Have students practice with penny, nickel, and dime coin manipulatives to find different ways of adding up to a quarter.
  • Invite students to share coins that come from their home country (if not the United States) or a country they have visited. See if they can make comparisons between the value of these coins and the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter.
  • Incorporate an appropriate literature selection into this activity that relates to the life of Abraham Lincoln. For example:
    • A Picture Book of Abraham Lincoln by David Adler
    • Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
    • Abe Lincoln's Hat by Martha Brenner
    • Meet Abraham Lincoln by Patricia A. Pingry
    • Young Abraham Lincoln: Log Cabin President by Andrew Woods


Use the worksheets and class participation to assess whether the students have met the lesson objectives.

Common Core Standards

Discipline: Math
Domain: K.CC Counting and Cardinality
Grade(s): Grade K
Cluster: Compare numbers

  • K.CC.6. Identify whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than, or equal to the number of objects in another group, eg, by using matching and counting strategies.
  • K.CC.7. Compare two numbers between 1 and 10 presented as written numerals. 

National Standards

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: K-2 Number and Operations
Cluster: Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates.
Grade(s): Grades K–2

In K through grade 2 all students should

  • develop and use strategies for whole-number computations, with a focus on addition and subtraction;
  • develop fluency with basic number combinations for addition and subtraction; and
  • use a variety of methods and tools to compute, including objects, mental computation, estimation, paper and pencil, and calculators.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: K-2 Number and Operations
Cluster: Understand meanings of operations and how they relate to one another.
Grade(s): Grades K–2

In K through grade 2 all students should

  • understand various meanings of addition and subtraction of whole numbers and the relationship between the two operations;
  • understand the effects of adding and subtracting whole numbers; and
  • understand situations that entail multiplication and division, such as equal groupings of objects and sharing equally.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: All Problem Solving
Cluster: Instructional programs from kindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to
Grade(s): Grades K–2

  • Build new mathematical knowledge through problem solving
  • Solve problems that arise in mathematics and in other contexts
  • Apply and adapt a variety of appropriate strategies to solve problems
  • Monitor and reflect on the process of mathematical problem solving