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This week: Money continued

There are many creative ways to teach money. Worksheets have their place in helping children pass exams and embed skills but practical activities teach higher level thinking skills and bring maths into the real world which is where it belongs.

Skills needed to understand money:

  • Children have to know the names of the numbers, in the correct order.
  • Children have to be able to count objects accurately.
  • Children have to understand the connection between digits (symbols) and the value they represent.
  • Children have to understand the concepts of addition (grouping things together) and subtraction (splitting things apart).
  • Children have to understand that objects can have a value, which is irrespective of their colour, shape, size, mass, etc.

In everyday situations children will generally have come across things having a 'one-to-one' correspondence; dots on the dice, equal jumps on the game board, one plate for each person at the table, etc.

The concept of a monetary value of an object is not one with which most young children are familiar. If a child wants a new toy, for example, the depth of desire for the toy is of much greater importance than its cost.

The mechanics of money
In these days of increasing use of credit/debit cards and supermarket shopping, few young children have experience of even watching, let alone taking part in, a monetary transaction which involves the use of cash and coins. Some children may have exchanged a five or ten pound note for a toy in a toy shop, but the reason for their receiving 'a penny change' will be beyond the scope of their mathematical ability.
Some children may have bought sweets and handed over the coins themselves. Here, providing the amount of money is at about the 20p level, the arithmetic may well have been understood and can provide a very valuable 'lesson in money'. However, this is likely to be the limit of a child's use of money.

The use of vocabulary relating to money can also be very limiting. The words 'coin' and 'change' are rarely used or properly understood by young children. Vocabulary may even be used ambiguously by adults talking to children. An adult might say, 'I've brought you some pennies.' but mean 'Here is some pocket money.' handing over 10p pieces or a pound coin.

To understand exactly what a 2p coin represents children have had to have mastered two of the skills in the list above (connecting digits with the value they represent, and understanding that value may be independent of physical properties). We have to understand that the '2' on the coin means two pennies and that this is the same as having two single penny coins, or two coins with '1' on them.

Lots of children do not understand this. This is demonstrated when children believe the person with the most coins has the most money, for example; having a 5p, 2p, 2p, 1p is worth more than a single 10p coin. Many children also believe size is a factor in value. It is true that a 2p is larger than a 1p and may 'reveal' its greater value in that way, but a 5p coin is smaller than both of these so they believe this is worth less.

If your child has fully understood and embedded the previous activities of splitting totals in a variety of ways but still having the same total, and understands that 2 more than 4 is always 6 regardless of how it is phrased or described, or the ‘twoness of 2’ - meaning 2 is always 2 whether it is 2 peas in a cup or the more space consuming 2 cars, then they can begin to understand the values in money.

If your child has not fully embedded these concepts, or they become confused with money, then please revisit the previous week’s learning and activities to consolidate their knowledge.

As always, progress at your child’s pace, asking lots of open questions to check understanding.