MONEY UNIT - FIRST GRADE
Money - What is it and how do we use it?
a unit for first grade
Introduction to Unit
unit was born out of the frustrations of a first-grade teacher - me.
We all know that two tasks which first graders are expected to accomplish are
1) learning to tell time, and 2) learning to count money. I considered these two
of the most difficult skills to teach first graders. Looking at the math
workbooks which were provided was depressing. The authors of these workbooks
seem to think that requiring a five-year-old to sit day after day circling
pictures of "coins" that don’t look like coins will teach children about money. I didn’t want to put
them through that, and I didn’t want to go through it, either.
the Money Unit was born. Actually, it was designed by the students and me.
Allowing the students to be involved in the actual designing of the unit was an
empowering experience for the students; they were fully capable of handling this
although they were first graders, 5 and 6 years old. I have found that when you
allow students this power, demonstrating to them your trust as well as your high
expectations, that they have never let me down. And I find that they are much
more motivated and learn a great deal more.
of all, I knew that using real coins would be much more effective; not only
because it relates to real life, but because it is more meaningful and fun for
the children. As we know from the wonderful teachings of John Dewey, and from
the current research and publications in the field of critical pedagogy, making
learning real and meaningful is extremely important for enabling students to be
powerful decision-makers and critics who can transform society for the better
through these attributes.
has been my experience that the main concerns of classroom teachers with whom I
have worked are l) student discipline, or classroom management, and 2) student
motivation. Making the work of school meaningful to students is the key to
student motivation and learning. All you have to do then is get out of their
way. This unit is designed to accommodate the role of teacher as facilitator and
the role of student as active learner, a creator of knowledge. I am a firm
believer in the theories of William Glasser - students’ needs for power,
freedom, belonging and fun must be met if any learning is to take place. These
units are designed to meet these needs for the students.
we decided to create a village - we didn’t imagine one or set one up in a
corner - our entire classroom became the village. Students were told that they
needed to divide themselves into groups, and each group was to decide upon a
business which they would open in the village. They had no problems
accomplishing this. Then, students had to create their store. They did this by
rearranging the desks and tables in the classroom, utilizing bookcases and
counters as well. After studying forms of advertising, the students created
signs and advertised their businesses. Then every day they practiced selling and
shopping in the village. Each student not only ran a business, but had a
checking account which they had to budget and balance as well.
parents were excited and made valuable contributions to our unit. It was simply
a lot of fun and a lot of work for the students, the participating parents and
me. And all the students learned how to count money without a problem, and
the final day of the unit, the class celebrated by having real food in Daisy's
Diner and real cookies and drinks at the Orange Julius. The local newspaper was
informed and invited to visit, which they did. The first graders were thrilled
to have an article and picture of their accomplishments in the local newspaper.
on each Outcome Statement to see full description of each outcome, including
supporting outcomes, enabling outcomes, activities and assessments for
individuals and small groups.
- Perform basic
arithmetic operations and estimation
skills required to be an effective
consumer and money manager.
record of cash flow.
- Collaboratively negotiate
a plan and create a
class business or village shopping area, then produce
- Create a marketing
technique for your business by analyzing
persuasion and marketing
techniques, then, applying
your chosen technique(s) produce
a marketing plan for your business.
Outcome #4 -
Using literature, magazine and newspaper articles, and interviews, find
real life problems
dealing with money management (the decision making aspect). Describe
the best possible
solutions for these problems. Describe
how this relates to your life within both
personal and school contexts.
probably noticed that certain words and phrases were in bold, red type. These
are the verbs and tasks which are used in designing unit outcomes in order to
keep the students challenged and thinking
on more critical levels - analyzing, negotiating, evaluating, justifying - these
are important skills which these
students must acquire in order to become contributing, critical democratic
citizens and which will enable them to make a better life for themselves and for
society. These are not skills that should be reserved for high school. They are
skills which must be learned early, and can be learned early, as my students
demonstrated. Their success increased their confidence to be able to attempt
greater challenges, and of course they were very proud of their accomplishments.
Not only did they do a wonderful job acquiring these skills, they were proud of
the "big words" added to their vocabulary.
can see that this is much more challenging and motivational than rote learning
with worksheets. These activities
required the students to learn the basic skills of addition, subtraction,
estimation and counting money, and they learned them quickly and
matter-of-factly because they had a reason to learn them and they were
a bonus, they gained many other important skills and increased their abilities
in reading, writing, speaking, listening, collaborating, critiquing, creating
and producing! The knowledge they acquired was much more than basic math –
they learned about marketing, economics, managing money, advertising,
consumerism, business planning, and much more. It doesn't need to be
stated here that learning skills related to managing money is an extremely
important skill, and one that is required for life - Financial and
Literature: There are wonderful resources in children's literature
for early elementary level children which deal with the concepts of financial
literacy and counting and managing money.
PMI - “Edward de Bono is regarded by many as the leading
authority in the world in the field of creative thinking and the direct teaching
of thinking as a skill. He has written 62 books with translations into 37
languages and has been invited to lecture in 54 countries. He is the originator
of lateral thinking which treats creativity as the behavior of information in a
self-organizing information system - such as the neural networks in the brain.
From such a consideration arise the deliberate and formal tools of lateral
thinking, parallel thinking etc." http://www.edwdebono.com/
I highly recommend to classroom teachers his two books, Six
Thinking Hats and Six Action Shoes.
They are packed with simple, but wonderful, activities such as PMI.
PMI stands for Plus/Minus/Just Interesting.
It is a decision-making tools which can also be used as a basis for
writing persuasive essays or producing other persuasive media messages.
I create a form such as the one below, but on a full page of paper, or
the students create one themselves. When
deciding which way to go in making a decision they list the points that are
positive (Plus) about a decision, those that are negative (Minus), and elements
about the decision which are neither a Plus or a Minus.
Whichever column has the most points is an indication of what they should
For example, if the decision to be made was whether to
spend $25 on a game or toy, possible points could be as follows:
Have fun with the game.
Get it right now
Could share it with my siblings or play with parents
Could take it places with me easily because it is
I could develop skills to be used in school -
eye/hand coordination, reading,
Wouldn’t have the money to buy other toys or games
Would take a long time to save that much again.
Have to do without purchases from the ice cream
truck for two weeks.
It is a computer game.
From the results, it looks as though it would be a
difficult decision, but there are more plusses than minuses. Therefore, the student could make the decision to purchase
They could also use these points to create arguments to
persuade their parents to purchase it for them or to let them purchase it.
In that case, they would select the three strongest points which would
most likely impress their parents and develop their arguments around those
This is also an excellent starting point for learning to
write persuasive essays for standardized tests!