Count On It! (3-5)

3, 4, 5

The purpose of this lesson is for students to work cooperatively to count the amounts of money donated thus far for their philanthropic endeavor. Younger students will recognize, sort, and group coins as well as state their face values. Older students will count by twos, fours, fives, and tens, practice estimating, and create a data table and bar graph to represent the money collected.

PrintGrades 2 & 3 One 45-50 Minute Class Period Grades 4 & 5 Two 45-50 Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • distinguish between a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar, dollar coins and dollar bills.
  • read and write amounts of money using decimal notations.
  • recite the value of a various coins and bills.
  • recognize and sort coins.
  • group coins in various ways to equal a dollar.
  • relate decimal fractions to fractional parts of a dollar.
  • construct tables and enter data.
  • construct, label, read, and interpret bar graphs.
  • estimate.
  • Classroom jar of money collected during this unit.
  • Visual aid that illustrates the value of the different coins for student reference.
  • graph paper and colored pencils or graphing computer software.


  1. Day One: All Grades Anticipatory Set (Grades 2 & 3):Review the appearance and value of the each type of coin and/or bills in the money collection.Use visual aids or supply enough coins that the children can easily see the attributes of each coin. While the students are looking at the coins, talk about each coin. Ask the students to name the coin, tell how they knew what it was, describe what it looks like, tell its value and count by multiples of its value (1s, 5s, 10s or 25s) up to one hundred. Also review the signs for dollars and cents. Ask students if they would be interested in helping to help sort and count the change collected, to discover the total.

    Anticipatory Set (Grades 4 & 5): Ask the students to carefully observe the jar of money. Ask them to estimate the total number of coins in the jar, writing their estimates with their names on a small slip of paper.Collect slips of paper for later use. Ask students to take a good look at the composition of coins in the jar thus far, noting the relative amounts of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and even dollar coins and bills in the jar. Ask students to write on another small slip of paper their name and their specific estimate, in dollars and cents, of the total amount of money in the jar. Ask them to write this amount in decimal form, with proper money notation on the slip of paper.Collect and keep for later use. Finally, ask students how one would know for sure how much money is in the jar and take suggestions from the class as to how to proceed to discover the correct amount.Lead them to the idea that sorting and counting change will be necessary.

  2. Ask for volunteers to help sort the coins, assign different groups to count pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars. If there are dollar bills or dollar coins in the jar, count and hold separately. If there are lots of pennies, have two or more groups divide up the pennies so that all get counted and everyone can finish about the same time. At this time, the class is doing a large sort, practicing differentiation of coins, and counting different types of coins in separate, designated areas of the classroom.

  3. Ask the students to physically arrange their coins in groups that equal $1.00.

  4. Teacher Note: Spend more or less time on counting by twos, fours, fives, and tens as appropriate to the students and the grade level curriculum. Groups could also be switched to confirm that the original group counted the total amount correctly and to give each group more practice in counting different coins and/or practicing counting up by a different number each time. For younger students, it may be helpful to invite adult volunteers or a higher-level class to mentor the younger students in counting.

  5. Each group should show their coin groupings and count how many groups of one dollar they have, plus count the remainder that is short of the next whole dollar, and write it as a decimal fraction (example: $12.23).

  6. Ask each group to report how many dollars and cents they have counted and ask a spokesperson to briefly describe their method of sorting and counting the coins.

  7. For younger students, record the group totals in a display area and add to determine the grand total in the jar. A class bar graph may be created to compare the totals for each type of currency counted. Talk about what you might be able to do with the money, based on the choice they made in the previous lesson.

  8. Allow students to process what they learned today and how or why it is important.

    1. What specifically have you learned today that was new to you?
    2. What can you do with the knowledge from this and previous lessons?
    3. What would you suggest for improving on what we did today?
  9. Talk about how working together is one way that we learn better. Explain that this is one time that you don’t need permission to act philanthropically—working together or helping others—should be done without hesitation because we are part of a community. Thank everyone for the part they are playing in this class act of philanthropy.

  10. Day Two: Grades 4 & 5:

  11. Using Handout One: Count On It! Data Table as a teaching model, on the overhead or board, sequentially lead students through creating a data table of their own on paper and entering the class data on their own paper. The following elements can be discussed: title of data table, drawing data table lines, labeling the coin column headings, entering all available data, and computing column totals. Once data is entered, ask students to add the total of all coins and bills, and show their work on the data table. Write the total on a piece of paper. Tape the paper to the side of the jar. The students help you put the money back in the jar.

  12. Take a moment to review student estimates previously made on the slips of paper for total number of coins in the jar and estimated total amount. Award small prizes or kudos to the student(s) who made the best estimates.

  13. Introduce the idea of a bar graph to visually represent the total amount of money generated by each type of coin or bill.Show the students examples of bar graphs in vertical and horizontal forms. Show and read the scales on the vertical and horizontal axes of the sample bar graphs.

  14. Lead the students in creating their own bar graph using the data from the completed data table. This may be done with graph paper and colored pencils/markers or using graphing computer software. Help them generate a bar graph that includes pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half dollars, and dollars bills or dollar coins as appropriate.

  15. Work through issues of proper scale for the money amounts going up the vertical axis from zero, labels for both axes, and a title for the bar graph itself.

  16. Ask students to verbally share the kinds of information they are able to glean from the completed bar graph. Conclude by emphasizing how a well-constructed bar graph can help us see data in a very powerful way. Highlight some of the better examples of bar graphs created by the students.

  17. If more graphing experience is desired, create a second bar graph showing only the total numbers of each type of coin collected in the jar. Use coin numbers data from Handout One: Count On It! Data Table. Afterwards, both bar graphs can be compared and contrasted based on what information they reveal, how it appears on the graph, and how individual bars compare on the two bar graphs.


The teacher should do an individual assessment while the sorting is going on which will include the following things: Do students recognize the various coins and/or bills? Do students verbalize the value of a penny, nickel, dime and quarter? Assess if the children can skip count the value of each coin to achieve the value of one dollar accurately on their own.


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.8 Describe classroom behaviors that help the students learn.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.7 Give classroom examples of when a student does not need the teacher's permission to act philanthropically.