Money has been one of those math lessons that I looked forward to teaching and dreaded teaching all at the same time. Teaching money is a loaded subject.
Think about it, when teaching money the child is learning how to switch back and forth between counting by 1s, 5s, 10s, 20s, and 25s (quarters obviously). They are also learning the value of money. They slowly start to learn that a handful of pennies won’t get them much of anything. They need to learn about saving, spending, budgeting, and tithing. Things that most public schools don’t teach and many parents struggle with these things themselves so we have kids growing up and getting married without knowing how to save $1. In almost 7 years of marriage I’ve gotten better about many of these money matters, but we still struggle and we are still learning.
Teaching kids about money to me means sharing the fact that things cost — EVERYTHING — and that’s part of why exploring interests in school and doing well are important
because you want to be prepared to enter into a career that you enjoy and knowing the things you need to do to succeed in that career whether it’s college, tech school, or experience.
I promise I’ve not started discussing the importance of a career and providing for a family with my 5 year old. I just think these things need to be intertwined with lessons on money and get progressively more prominent as they get older. Many of these lessons can be taught in every day life as long as they are involved in some of the (age-appropriate) handling of money. The grocery store is a great place to teach about the value of a dollar. Birthday money getting spent is a great way. Children seeing parents tithe is another way. Real-life application is the key.
Last week Josiah started working on recognizing and counting coins. So far he’s worked on pennies, nickles, and dimes. Honestly I have to say I’m impressed. Pennies were easy to catch onto, but even though nickles and dimes are a little harder he caught on just fine. He can count by 10s all the way to a hundred like a champ. He still struggles a little bit with 5s, but he knows he can count nickles by two and he can count by 10s instead of 5s.
I bought plastic coins at a yard sale for him to use, but we’ve also looked at the real coins so he could see the difference. The biggest thing that has helped Josiah with counting money is the grocery store I set up in his classroom. I’ve started saving empty bottles and food boxes and labeling them with prices (right now we are still in prices under 20 cents each). The groceries sit on a shelf with a price and I give Josiah a dollar in various coins and he goes shopping. As he grabs items we add them up on the board (this has subtly introduced two-digit addition). After we figure out how much the items he grabbed costs, he figures out if he has enough money for the items. If he does, he gets to buy them. If he doesn’t, he chooses which item to put back and sees if there’s another item he does have money for (haven’t we all done that a few times?).
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain to Josiah that we can’t buy X because I don’t have enough money for it. Now, because of his little grocery store experiences he understands what that means first hand.
Now that he knows how to read the price of an item, I will most likely start involving him in grocery shopping by giving him a list and having him keep track of prices (these will be short grocery list days I’m sure because I can’t spend 4 hours at the grocery store). Eventually we will progress with Josiah picking meals and getting a list together for the ingredients and keeping track of how much that meal costs.
From there we will move onto saving and tithing once he starts earning his own money to work with. These lessons taught with real world application instead of worksheets are much easier to understand and will be remembered a lot longer.