Learning Math Concepts with Shel Silverstein Poems About Money

Shel Silverstein

As an awkward youngster, Shel Silverstein began writing because he had no athletic ability and the girls were not interested in him! He was not familiar with poets, so developed his own writing style. He entered the military in the 1950’s and worked as a cartoonist for a U.S. military publication. In addition to his award-winning books such as ‘The Giving Tree’ and ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’, Silverstein also wrote lyrics and composed music. Shel is a favorite author of many people, young and old. He died on May 10, 1999.

Shel Silverstein’s poetry books can be found on almost every classroom shelf across the country. These Shel Silverstein math poems are a fun way to combine his beloved poetry with some fun lessons on money.

The Googies are Coming

The googies are coming, the old people say, To buy little children and take them away.

Fifty cents for fat ones, Twenty cents for lean ones, Fifteen cents for dirty ones,

Thirty cents for clean ones, A nickel each for mean ones.

The googies are coming, and maybe tonight, To buy little children and lock them up tight.

Eighty cents for husky ones, Quarter for the weak ones, Penny each for noisy one, A dollar for the meek ones.

Forty cents for happy ones, Eleven cents for sad ones. And, kiddies, when they come to buy, It won’t do you any good to cry.

But – just between yourself and I – They never buy the bad ones.

-Shel Silverstein

Math Questions for Googies Poem

For students still working on money concepts, use money manipulatives to help them solve the problems.


  1. How much would it cost to buy a lean one and a weak one? (45 cents)
  2. How much would it cost for a fat one, dirty one, and sad one? (76 cents)
  3. Is it more to buy a dirty one and a husky one, or a happy one and a clean one? (dirty and husky)
  4. Is it cheaper to buy a lean one and a mean one or a dirty on and a noisy one? (dirty and noisy)
  5. If you buy a weak one and meek one, and pay with $2.00, how much change will you get back? (75 cents)
  6. If you buy a lean one and noisy one, and pay with $.50, how much change will you get back? (29 cents)
  7. You buy two meek ones, three sad ones, and two clean ones. If you pay with $5.00, how much change will you get back? ($2.07)


My dad gave me one dollar bill ‘Cause I’m his smartest son, And I swapped it for two shiny quarters ‘Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters And traded them to Lou For three dimes – I guess he don’t know That three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates And just ’cause he can’t see He gave me four nickels for my three dimes, And four is more than three!

And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs Down at the seed-feed store, And the fool gave me five pennies for them, and five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad, And he got red in the cheeks And closed his eyes and shook his head – Too proud of me to speak!

-Shel Silverstein

Activity & Math Questions for Smart Poem

shel silverstein

Begin by asking your class to share why they think the poem is titled “Smart”. You can act out the poem using real coins or play money. Divide students into groups of 6. The “son” in the story is the narrator, so he reads the poem. I f necessary, you can add a seventh person to be the narrator and the son can just act out his role. Then you need the following additional characters:

  • dad
  • unamed person for first exchange
  • Lou
  • old blind Bates
  • Hiram Coombs

Each person needs the proper coins to make their exchange. As the poem is read aloud, each person makes their exchange with the son.

If necessary, students can use coins as manipulatives to solve the following:

  1. When the boy traded in his dollar, how much money did he lose? (50 cents)
  2. When he made the trade with old blind Bates, how much did he lose? (10 cents)
  3. When he made the trade with Hiram Coombs, how much did he lose? (15 cents)
  4. How much money did the boy lose in all by the end of the poem? (95 cents)