Art and Math · Arts in Education · Making Books with children · Making books with elementary students · Math and Book Arts

Making Books with Money


Oh my gosh, working with second grade students is so rich.

They have skills, they are enthusiastic and uninhibited, and tapping into their learning curve is delightful.

Windshield, with George in the driver's seat
Windshield, with George in the driver’s seat

I’m working with three sections with about 22 students per class, so I’m getting to see about 66 different ways that students are making sense of the 100 cents project that I described in my last post. (oh, there’s an unintended pun in that last sentence…)

Abstract design
Abstract design

Short recap: students were given images of coins, which add up to $3.00, from which they chose $1.00, or 100 cents, worth of coins to create a design.

These students hadn’t started studying money yet, which was fine. Most students seemed to understand how much coins were worth, though certainly a few students had no idea about the value of coins.

It was fun, when adding up the value of nickels, to say, Now you know why it comes in handy to count by fives.


Making the wallet-book to house the 100 cent images, then making the images was what we got done on the first day. Separating out 100 cents was certainly the most challenging part of the project. The designs flowed freely.


Day 2 was a bit more challenging, but I think that the toughest part was just communicating to them what I was looking for, which was for the students to make matching arrays of the coins that they used in their designs, then providing the equation which showed that the value of the coins equal 100.


Turns out that this array-making uncovered a few mistakes. For instance the airplane pictures above was five cents short, so he added a nickel on to the bottom and all was well.

Person in landscape
Person in landscape

There was a wide range of simplicity to complication of images.


If students didn’t have enough coins of a certain value left from their original 300 cent to making the matching array, they would exchange change with another student, at least that was the plan, which worked fairly well. I did bring lots of extra coins, for moments when it seemed better just to hand students what they needed.

Still, everyone should have had 100 cents left over. These coins got glued on to a pocket of their wallet book, along with a statement of the value of these coins.  That little black folder that contains the 100 cent image now has an enlarged section of a colorful buck glued on to the front. After all that figuring and adding, it was great to end yesterday’s class with some playful coloring in.

Okay, one more day with these students. The next piece that goes into the wallet-book has to do with combining shapes to make other shapes, much in the same way that we combined values of coins to make other values.

The most joyful moments during these days is having this opportunity to be a part of these early moments of learning about addition. When students say that they can’t get their numbers to add up to 100, though they know that they do, I can sit with them and help them sort out what’s going on. It’s so illuminating for me hear them tell me what they’ve done, and then to help them see another way of interacting with the numbers.

Addendum: as soon as this post went up the generous and brilliant connector-of-all -things-math offered me this link to some other coin projects

Simply awesome.

Addendum #2: here’s the link to the final post of this project

Addendum #3, April 2019

AFter teaching this many times, one of the biggest changes I’ve made to this project is to hand out only $1.50 in coins at first, from which the students pick and choose and count to make their $1.00 designs. They each get 10 pennies, 6 dimes, 6 nickels and two quarters. Then I give out the appropriate number of coins in arrays for the second page.

BIG TIP: Before teaching this class I encourage the teachers to get the kids practice  doing their skip counting starting at a place other than zero. Also, I think it would be helpful for kids to skip count by 25’s before starting their money unit.

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