Kathy Schwartz

It is something you deal with every day. Your child is exposed to it every day. But it still remains a mystery to most parents how can their child not understand money. In your child’s defense, the American coin system makes absolutely no sense.

The state standards that deal with money and its value appear in most grades. Identification, value and manipulations appear throughout your child’s school years. Rightfully so, it should be a high priority for our children to understand the monetary system of our country, but it can be totally baffling to youngsters.

It would be so easy if the larger the coin the more value it has. This is true for the quarter and the 50-cent piece, but not the penny, dime or nickel. Different colors would help but we have only two colors, silver and copper. If the coin designers would have saw fit to put the value somewhere on the coin, that would help, but only the penny says “cent.”

Even the names and phrases are confusing. We say the coin that is worth 50 cents is a half-dollar, but the one that’s worth 25 centers is just a quarter, not a quarter of a dollar. Let’s not even begin to understand where the word dime comes from, not to mention penny and nickel, even though some were actually made of nickel.

So, are you beginning to see why it is a hard concept to grasp?

Now with the use of plastic cards to transact our purchases, children have less exposure to seeing coins used. However, we are faced with the task of teaching our child how to use coins.

The first step in coin understanding is being able to recognize each coin and know its value. Throw a handful of coins on the table and have your child sort them into different piles. Next, ask him to describe both sides of the coin. Have him recite: This is a (coin) and it is worth (value). Be sure to tell your child that some like-valued coins look different, such as quarters.

The ability to count by ones, fives, 10s and 25s is the next step in coin counting. This skill should be mastered first.

Now you are ready to start practicing coin counting. Start simple, with coins being the same. Next, introduce different coins into the mix.

In counting a handful of coins, tell your child to group the coins. Then begin counting the highest valued coins first. Then count the next highest. When a dollar is reached, set aside and begin again.

A fun way to practice money counting is to have your child “pay” for their snacks. Place a jar of coins on the kitchen counter and put a price of the snack. Your child needs to present you with the right combination of coins to receive the snack.

Remember, this is a difficult concept to grasp. Have fun with it. You are giving your child a skill that he will use all his life.

And who knows? It may spark an interest in coin collecting.

Kathy Schwartz is a retired elementary school teacher and serves as a parent education consultant.

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