Use Coin-Based Games to Teach About Money and Math

In a Parents, Kids, and Money survey, researchers found that less than 14% of respondents received financial guidance from their parents, and only 4% of parents spoke about money with their children 4 and under.

In this article, we will discuss how playing games that use coins or currency is a great way to teach children about the value of money, as well as to reinforce a number of simple mathematical concepts like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You can use regular coins, or (if you're concerned about sanitation or choking) you can make your own currency out of cardboard or paper, with clearly printed values for early readers.

If you decide to use real coins, make sure the children know ahead of time that they will not be allowed to keep the money; this will help keep little ones from becoming upset at the end of the game.

By turning coin-counting and math exercises into fun games that the whole family can play, children can learn valuable information about money management without even realizing it. Below are several fun options.

Money Toss

Children stacking coins
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This variation of old-fashioned penny pitching has children tossing mixed coins into a bowl. Those that stay in the bowl become part of the winner's stash, while those that land outside the bowl ​go to the other player.

At the end of the game (you can set the time boundary based on age and level of patience), kids must count up their winnings to see who has the most. An important lesson: sometimes the largest number of coins does not add up to the greatest amount of money.

Dollars and Dice

This game requires dice and real or cardboard coins, and is appropriate for kids who know how to add numbers. The goal of the game is to collect the correct number of coins to create a dollar. Players take coins based on a roll of the die. The numbers on the die correlate to the coin values as follows:

  • 1—penny
  • 2—nickel
  • 3—dime
  • 4—quarter
  • 5—any coin (wild card)
  • 6—lose a turn

Players take turns rolling the die and adding coins. The winner becomes the first player to reach exactly one dollar. If taking a coin would put the player over a dollar, the player loses the turn. Once the kids master the game, you can change the winning amount to odd amounts, like $2.17.

Money Matching

The difficulty of this game can be varied depending on the needs of the young players. For children who are learning to count but are not adding yet, keeping values small and just using pennies will be effective. For older children who can add, use higher values and all of the coins.

Create a set of cards with different values, and give each child a starting bank of coins. For younger children, use card values up to 10 cents, and for older kids create card values up to a dollar. 

Players take turns drawing cards and then use the coins to create the value shown on their card. There are typically no winners in this game, but perhaps you can provide a small reward like a sticker every time a player gets the right answer.

Hide and Seek

You can modify this game depending on children's ages and counting levels. Parents hide coins, real or pretend, around the house. Children are then set loose to find as many coins as they can. Pennies can be used for younger children and the rest of the coins can be added in for older kids.

Keep track of how many coins you hide, and when all the coins have been found, players count up their totals. The player with the highest total wins the game. Kids will immediately want to take a turn hiding the coins; just make sure you are able to find them all.

Shopping Center

This game works well for younger kids who are learning to count. Gather a number of toys and place price tags on them, keeping the prices countable in pennies. Have the children identify the price and count out the number of coins they need to buy the item.

Make sure ahead of time that players know they aren't playing to keep the items. Mix and match the items and give kids plenty of pennies so they can figure out the best way to divide up their pennies and spend them.

In Conclusion:

The Institute for Educational Sciences found that early experience with number and operations is fundamental for acquiring more complex math concepts and skills. 

We identified 20 studies that examined the effects of interventions that included dedicated time for math instruction, integration of math into other aspects of the day, and the use of games to practice math skills. A group of studies found that children who played number-based board games performed better in the domain of basic number concepts than did children who played color-based board games or no board games. 

You'll likely find that kids—like adults—love playing with money, and that these exercises are a great way to help them learn while having fun.