Using Money to Teach Math

Earlier this week, JJ Montanaro of USAA told us all about the value of opening savings accounts for children.

Today, let’s talk about using money, checking, and savings as a real life math lesson.

Using money to teach math

Math all starts with the basics: counting the total number of whatever.

And this is really what money and banking gets down to: counting. You start with a certain amount, and then count on when you add more money in.

Even little kids can grasp this.

Activity: Piggie Bank

Find, make, or buy a container for collecting money. With younger kids, use just pennies at first since a penny equals 1. As kids start to understand the value of money, add in nickels, dimes, and then quarters.

When your child earns or receives money, change it into the coins he is familiar with and add it to the bank. Keep a white board, chalk board, or an account book nearby. Every time you add money to the bank, help your child tally it up.

It can be as simple as this:


Your child is learning to count on from a starting number, to keep track of their income and spending, and to save. As your child gets older or learns more math skills, you can advance to adding/subtracting dollars and cents using pen and paper or mental math.

More Money, More Problems

We can all agree that money making involves a lot more math problems. Adults are mostly used to budgeting and analyzing income and spending patterns, but kids might not be quite so adept.

So get your older children ready for the big time by helping them set up income/spending projects now.

Activity: Business Plan

Lots of kids have side hustles: babysitting, lawn mowing, after school jobs, and even allowances. Use basic math skills to help them plan for major and minor purchases or expenses.

First, gather together their last few pay stubs or write down how much they make/charge per hour of work.

For example: 1 hours of babysitting = $10, 6 hours = $60

Next, create a one week general schedule of their work. This helps kids figure out how much they are making, in general, on a weekly basis. You can make this bigger by moving towards monthly or yearly income.

Then talk to your tween or teen about their financial goals. Are there school expenses that they need to pay for? What about summer trips? Any concerts coming up? Your child should research each expense and tally up the total.

Last, compare the things your kiddo WANTS to do with the actual money they are pulling in. Consider:

  • when things need to be purchased by
  • how long it would take to save up
  • how many different items/events could be saved for at once

Have a realistic talk with your tween or teen about saving and create a plan to help them achieve their goals. Help them set up a bank account, create a tracking system, or an allotment system.

Built-in Money Math

Everyone shops. It’s just a fact of life. But did you know that you can use your weekly trip to the grocery store to help teach your kids math?

Here’s how!

  • Rounding: Look at the prices of items. Tell your kids that any decimal amount .50 or higher goes to the next dollar amount; anything .49 or less keeps the same dollar amount. Challenge: have kids find the cheapest product in a category!
  • Price per unit: Once your kids understand rounding the dollars, have them compare the size or weight or amount of a product to find the best deal.
  • Weekly Fliers: On Sundays, or whenever the weekly sales fliers arrive, have your child go through and find deals for common items on your grocery list. Or you could provide your child with the list. Challenge: find the BEST store to shop at each week based on the deals.
  • Coupon Kid: Put your child in charge of your coupons. Using the fliers and your list, your child will compare products and prices to find the best deals. He will also be in charge of finding, clipping, and keeping coupons each week. This teaches organization and smart finances!

Class Money

Most elementary teachers today have a reward system in place to honor good behavior or efforts. Why not monetize it?

I’m not talking about REAL money! Just use monopoly money, play money, or print your own. Make sure to laminate it though, since little hands are rough.

Set up a system of reward. One example might look like this:


Dish out the classroom dollars, and then set up a menu of things your students could “buy” with their hard earned cash. It might look something like this:

Rewards! (1)

Provide the kids with envelopes to store their reward money and a small “account book” to keep track of their earnings. Make sure that there is a reward available to all levels of students!

How do you use money to teach math concepts?


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2 thoughts on “Using Money to Teach Math

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