Money – A Rabbit Trail….

One thing that I’ve definitely learned over the last couple of years is that Tornado Boy is very much an immersive learner. Once he gets interested in a topic, he will want to explore in great depth until he gets interested in something else. I sometimes feel that any long term plans that I make are a bit foolish because in the end we will end up following his chosen path anyway. We had a major rabbit trail this spring when we started to study money during our “Community” unit in the Moving Beyond the Page curriculum. The curriculum had some basics about skip counting by fives and tens, the value of different denominations of money, earning money, spending, saving and giving money. Tornado Boy wanted to know far more than that, so off we went on our adventure….

We Read Books:
We read a lot of books (all featured in the widget above) about money. The more we learned, the more TB wanted to know. I particularly liked Shel Silverstein’s poem “Smart” that’s featured in his book Where the Sidewalk Ends. It is a fun tale of all the great trades that a child makes with his money. It’s a great discussion starter for you and your child. There are several video presentations and lesson plans to go along with the poem online.

One of the things that really seemed to concern TB is that the value of coins doesn’t match their size. He is thoroughly convinced that the dime should be the value of a penny since it is the smallest coin. He’s also not a fan of the half dollar being larger than the dollar coin. One of the reasons that I really like the Coin Counting Book is because it shows the relative sizes and real appearance of the coins. TB has accepted all of the correct values of the coins, but he really dislikes the system. Can’t say that I blame him. He’s also lobbying for a metric system for time – good luck with that, little man!

We Played Games:
We played Triple Play Math Money as Alvin looked on – TB has a serious “Chipmunks” fascination. In this game, you compete against one another to get the most matches of coins and prize cards. TB learned a lot about sportsmanship playing games this spring because he didn’t always win and he wasn’t always happy about it. We had a lot of fun, and he learned a few hard lessons along the way.

TB used his Learning Resources Teaching Cash Register extensively. I like this toy because it has a bunch of different modes and can reinforce money recognition as well as adding and subtracting. I wish the cash drawer was larger, though. There’s only room for three kinds of bills, but it comes with four denominations. We also have a Teaching Cash Register Activity Book that I think I bought separately when we first got the register a couple of years ago. It has some good extension activities for writing prices, making change, multiplying to get prices of multiple items and the like. The cash register is definitely one of our most heavily used learning toys. Here’s TB working on adding coins for use in the cash register:

Tornado Boy played with coin cards. They’re a self-correcting set of cards that has the child match the coins shown to their correct total value. I love this type of exercise because he doesn’t need my help to know if he has them all right. This type of activity allows me to get other lesson elements prepped, unfortunately these cards (originally from Learning Resources) no longer seem to be available.

We absolutely loved Cash Cow for the iPod. This was where TB really had a breakthrough in how coins add up to other values. When you click on five pennies, they magically become a nickel in the game. The same is true for any other valid combination of up to ten coins. Here’s a preview of the game play:

We Watched a Few Videos:
There are several money related videos on Brain Pop Jr. if you have a membership or access through your school. Their content is top notch and they have additional learning activities based on the video content as well. If you have an iPod, iPad or iPhone or use Google Chrome, I definitely recommend getting the free Brain Pop daily featured movie app. The content is older than the Jr. site, but still done very well and worth watching.

TB watched Money & Making Change by Rock n Learn in the car several times. I never saw it in full, but he loved it. This video caused another small rabbit trail for us as TB was fascinated by the Golden Dollar coin featuring Sacajawea. We ended up reading about Lewis & Clark’s expedition and doing a side history lesson to learn more about her, including reading the Value Tales book about her called “Adventure”.

Here’s a preview of the Money & Making Change video:

We Used Real Money:
We reinforced the “rule of halves” that my Father-in-Law introduced to me last year. Tornado Boy desperately wanted a Crayola Magic Light Brush toy that the reviews were not very good on. Santa Claus failed to deliver back in December, so TB got to pay for half of it. Here he is counting out the dollars that he had in his piggy bank and then proudly displaying his purchase:

We talked about real money, its history and some of the new security features of our bills. Tornado Boy and his Dad designed their own currency – the $11,000 bill featuring a photo of TB (not sure where it’s wandered off to at the moment). We have started collecting the state quarters to learn more about U.S. Geography. Each time we get change somewhere it’s like a treasure hunt to see what kind of quarters we may have gotten. There are an amazing amount of free resources online if you Google “elementary school money lesson plans”.

We also opened a non-college savings account for TB. We were lucky enough to hit a special with an online bank that gave a $25 bonus when you opened an account so that TB could see “real” (though unrealistic) rewards of putting your money in the bank. We talked a lot about saving, spending and giving your money.

As TB’s money fascination was winding down, we had the following conversation in the car one day:

  • Me: TB, I have a question for you. If you went into the store and you wanted to buy something that cost 80 cents, but you only had a dollar, how much change would the clerk need to give you?
  • TB: (thinks for a moment) 2 dimes.
  • Me: Ok, what if the clerk didn’t have 2 dimes, what else could she give you?
  • TB: (thinks again) Well, she could give me a half dollar and then I could give her 3 dimes.

I was completely floored. I was totally expecting four nickels or twenty pennies. Nice way to think outside the box, little man! I was really, really pleased with this rabbit trail. It was not at all what I had planned for us, but I really feel like Tornado Boy learned some valuable lessons and had a lot of fun doing it. I’m curious to see what his next fascination will be.

I’m also linking this post to the math lessons on love2learn2day.

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5 Responses to Money – A Rabbit Trail….

  1. min says:

    Wow! I’m impressed by his mental calculations! I just downloaded Cash Cow which looks like so much fun! We haven’t done enough on money (more of an introduction) but you’ve given me enough resources here to do a full on immersion program! ;)

    I wasn’t aware of Brain Pop Jr. but we have Brain Pop on my iPhone.

    Good for you for following TB’s lead. He looks so happy in the photo when he purchased his own toy. From my experience with K, she learns the most when it’s her idea or when she takes ownership of something. Then anything goes! But every time I try to “teach” her something, I feel like I’m dumbing her down. Kids could go far beyond what we think is important to know. They ask the important questions that we don’t always think of as well. Most of the time, I feel like I’m learning alongside her.

    Thanks for sharing all the great resources. Now, I just need the time to go through all of them!

  2. MissMOE says:

    Great post full of resources. We have that cash register, and it has received quite a work out. There is nothing like hands-on practice to cement understanding.
    MissMOE´s last [type] ..Teaching Economics

  3. Cindy says:

    Impressed by your son’s strategies. Way to go!

    Thanks for linking up at Math Monday! :)

  4. We LOVE that poem from Shel Silverstein!! And we often go off on “rabbit trails” — it’s the BEST way to learn. Found you via the HHH; GREAT post!!
    gina aka @CPCAKEmama´s last [type] ..what size bra do you wear

  5. sunnyvale422 says:

    This is an awesome post with so many good links. I bookmarked it for later. I agree with other posters – the best lessons are self-initiated discoveries.
    sunnyvale422´s last [type] ..What My Child Is Reading – May 20- 2011

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