Learning 12 Jun 2019

How far can your coins take you?

By Laura Coulter, TK grade 3 teacher
Photograph by CIS Communications

"That money is burning a hole in your pocket."  

Teaching proverbs to students is easier when you have a real life example. In mathematics earlier this year, grade 3 students had been practising making change with real coins - $4.50 to be exact. They practised counting back, counting up, dividing, multiplying and working out how much change they'd have left after imaginary purchases and word problems.  

As a final surprise lesson for the inquiry, students in TK3-1 were taken to the small shop across the street to spend their coins. There were some stipulations: they had to choose one stationery item and one treat, and they could not exceed  the $4.50 they had.

Armed with their coin purses, students made their way to the long-established shop where they debated over which items to buy - was it going to be drinks and cookies or toys and stamps? In fact, questions like these could be heard all over the place:

  • “Do you really NEED another notebook?”

  • “If I get this one thing, I’ll only have 20 cents left - not enough to buy the second item.”

  • "Can I PLEASE get three things?"  

The rules were firm, so there was a lot of strategising, some quick additions to be worked out on the spot, and very careful decisions to be made. The friendly shop staff were generous with their time and supportive of our students’ learning (we are lucky to have such a supportive local business within our TK community). They patiently told the students what their items cost and let them add it up in their heads or on scrap paper, before confirming the total on the register. The students were then tested on the amount of change they should get back. This prompted them to give examples of the various denominations in which their change (whether it’s 50 cents or 90 cents) might be returned.

At the same time, students had the opportunity to engage in a real-life situation where they had to speak politely, handle a purchase in a respectful manner and make their own decisions about how to use their limited funds.

We returned to class elated with our purchases - erasers, new pencils, sweets, post-it notes, etc. I bought toothpaste and candy - a good combination I thought, for a grand total of $1.20. And I had no lack of eager, confident helpers to show me how to count, check, and present my coins.

In our reflection the next day, we wrote about what we'd purchased, if we had any buyer regrets and also drafted a thank you letter to the shop. After all, it's not every day that twenty-six eager shoppers descend on them at once, armed with coins. I appreciated their support and collaboration in our learning and inquiry.

"Life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you wish but you can only spend it once."