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Show Me the Money! A First Grade Math Lesson

written by: Patricia Gable • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 1/29/2014

Start by reading a well-done book about a little girl saving her money until she accumulates $1.00. Then do some cross-curricular follow-up activities that give students practice with coin counting.

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    1st grade math lesson on counting coins Learning Objective: Count and write values of coins up to $1.00 using dollar sign, decimal, and cent symbol.

    Prior Knowledge: Familiarity with addition with more than two addends


    • Book: Jenny Found a Penny by Trudy Harris
    • Coins: Quarters, Dimes, Nickels, Pennies (real or plastic)
    • Math Journals or writing paper
    • White board
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    Gather the students around you as you read Jenny Found a Penny so that they can interact while you read. The story is about a determined little girl who is saving money for a special purchase. There are sidebars on each page with realistic pictures of the coins for your students to add up as Jenny collects them. To assist in the addition you should use a white board to write the numeric amount of the coins in a vertical line and demonstrate how to add each time she finds another coin.

    Jenny Found a Penny Book Cover Questions about the book:

    • What is the value of each coin?
    • When Jenny goes to the store with her dollar how much more does she need?
    • Jenny needs seven cents and she finds a dime. How much will she have left over? Can someone write the math problem on the board? 10-7=3
    • What is a tax?


    Journal Activity: Choose two coins and write about what you see on both sides of the coins. (See additional information below.)

    Small group with the teacher (during the journal activity) provide a pile of coins (pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters only) and ask the students to perform these tasks:

    • Which coin means one cent? What is it called?
    • Which coin means five cents? What is it called?
    • Which coin is called a quarter? How much is it worth?
    • Which coin is called a dime? How much is it worth?
    • Gather coins that make eight cents.
    • Gather coins that make twenty-five cents.
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    Interesting Information:

    You will always have a few students who want to know more about things! Here is some information about the coins:

    Penny (cent): Picture of Abraham Lincoln the 16th President on one side, The Lincoln Memorial on the other side of most of the pennies.

    Nickel: Picture of Thomas Jefferson the 3rd President on one side, his home Monticello in Virginia on the other side.

    Dime: Picture of Franklin Roosevelt the 32nd President, the man who served the longest, on the other side a torch, oak branch and olive branch.

    Quarter: Picture of George Washington the 1st President also known as “The Father of Our Country" and on the other side a bald eagle.

    State Quarters: George Washington is on one side and the other side varies depending on the state.


  • Harris, Trudy. Jenny Found a Penny. Millbrook Press, Inc., 2008.