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    Counting Coins (long)
    By Amanda K.

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    The very best way I have of teaching coin counting is to start the first day of school and do it every day. I can't recommend this enough, I'm telling you! The problem with counting coins is that the kids have to be able to count by tens, and then switch to fives, etc. So many of them have problems with that, but if you are modeling it every single day from day one, more of them pick up on it. It's just a matter of seeing it every day.

    My trick is, I do a coin segment during calendar beginning with the first day of school. What I do is I show the kids how to make the day's date in coins. I have a wooden board with rows of clear slats on it so I can drop coins in and the kids can see what coins are there. So, if the first day of school is August 8, we make 8 in coins. Of course, the first 2 months of schol, I do it for them, and they of course, are clueless, but they watch me count the coins out and I encourage them to count with me if they can. I tell them things like, a nickel is the same thing as 5, so I put the nickel and say, "5." And then, I say, "But we need to get to 8. A penny is 1." And then I add three pennies, counting out loud, while the kids watch. I do 1-2 different ways of making the day's number each day, until the kids are able to tell me the coins, and then we do 4 ways so more people have a chance. I also have a poster at my calendar area that shows the coins, their names, and how much they are worth so the kids can use this as a reference.

    By 1-2 months, some of the kids are able to tell me how to make the date in coins instead of my telling them, and about half of them are able to count along. By the time I get around to actively teaching coins from the math book in January, most of the kids can already count to 30 and the worksheets from the book are too easy for them. During the 3rd trimester, when our state standard says the kids have to count to 99, I assign a higher number at calendar instead of the day's date. For example, I tell the kids that I am looking for ways to say 77 using coins, and you have to use quarters. I let kids tell me 4 different ways, and the whole class has to count along as the helper puts the coins in. They absolutely love this. It's like a game for them to figure out the coin combinations on their own.

    I also have a coin center, which is monitored by a parent once a week. I have fake money that the district supplies (but you can also buy this at a teacher's store), and a stack of playing cards that have pictures of things to buy with price tags. The kids play Store with this game. We've also played Store whole class, in cooperative groups. I circulate the room and help out kids who are having troubles.

    Since you're probably looking for stuff to use right now, and my idea starts from the beginning of the year, here's some advice. Stick with the simple stuff, and then move to the harder stuff. Have the kids just count nickels first, and then add pennies to the combination. When they are comfortable with working with these two coins together, then teach them dimes and pennies. When they can do that, then you can start mixing up the coins more, like with dimes, nickels, and pennies. And don't rush it. This is probably the most difficult concept I teach in math, including fractions. The kids need time to process the information and grow comfortable with each level of counting. Playing store in an adult-monitored center or in cooperative groups where there is at least 1 competent student in each group to help the others is really beneficial.

    Something else I do is remind the kids that if they have a workbook page, they can go through, and write the coin values on top of the coins so they can remember what they are supposed to be counting by on that particular coin.

    Truly, though, if you are teaching first grade next year, I highly recommend doing the coin counting at daily calendar from the beginning of the year. It's by far the most effective way I have discovered to teach this difficult concept. I'm the only teacher in my school's grade level who taught it that way this year, and it's no coincidence that I'm also the only teacher who doesn't complain that the kids just can't count coins. Good luck!

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