1. Parenting

Muffin Tin Money: Teaching Coin Values to Kids

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How Much is This Coin Worth?
muffin tin coin sorting
Image: Amanda Morin

Teaching coin values to kids can be hard, not only because they need to remember the value of each coin, but because it’s sometimes hard for kids to tell one coin from another. Giving your child real coins to use when you’re teaching coin values can really help, as can having a contained way of teaching it.

Muffin tin games are a great way to keep everything in one place and easily lend themselves to help your child sort coins by size and denomination. You can even start teaching a little money math.

What Your Child Will Learn (or Practice):

  • Money sense

  • Coin recognition, both of features and monetary value.

  • Names of different coins

  • Sorting

Materials Needed:

  • Pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters in a Ziploc bag

  • A six-cup muffin tin

  • Paper muffin tin liners

  • A marker

  • Piece of paper

The Muffin Tin Coin Sort Game

  1. Find a workspace on the floor or a table on which you can place the coins without them rolling or sliding away. Have your child dump out the bag of coins and ask him to tell you if he can name any of them. Ask him to pull out the coins he can name. If he’s not able to name any, take out a penny, a nickel, a dime and a quarter, showing them to your child and naming them for him and telling him how much each coin is worth.

  2. Help your child line up the four coins from the smallest denomination to the largest. Many children will line them up by size, but it’s important to point out that how much the coin is worth isn’t determined by its size. That will help your child to learn that a dime is actually worth more than a penny and nickel.

  3. Put one of each of type of coin in its own cup in the muffin tin, leaving the rest of the coins on the table. Ask your child to sort the coins the same way you began. If he has trouble understanding, continue sorting the next few coins so he is able to see that all the pennies go in one cup, all the nickels in another, and so on.

  4. Ask your child to take all of the 5-cent coins out of the muffin tin and to remind you what they are called. Once he’s done that, do the same for the rest of the coins to reinforce the name and value of each.

  5. On a piece of paper write out the name words of the coins (penny, nickel, dime, quarter). Since your child is most likely to be seeing money referred to in books, on math papers, or in stores, he’ll need to know what the associated word looks like. In fact, it’s likely that money words may be on his sight word list from school. Once you've read the words together, ask him to put one of the correct coin next to the word that "says" its name.

  6. Use your marker to write the coin names one each on the bottom of a muffin tin liner. Put the liners in the muffin tin and ask your child to re-sort the coins by reading the words.

  7. Do the same thing you did with the words (both on paper and with muffin tin liners), using the word "cents" and the ¢ sign to familiarize your child with both ways of referring to coin values.

  8. Extend the learning a little by writing different money values on the bottom of muffin liners, values that will require your child to add two or more coins together. For example, write "17 cents" or "13¢" and then ask your child to put the correct coins in the muffin cup.

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