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The Price Is Right
(An Activity for Teaching Coin/Money Values)


  • Arithmetic
    -- Process Skills


  • K-2
  • 3-5

Brief Description

Use a variation on the TV game show “The Price Is Right” to teach students that different combinations of coins can have the same value.


Students will Students
  • differentiate between a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter.
  • state the value of each coin.
  • gather different coins and combinations of coins to equal a specific amount.
  • fill in a chart to illustrate how many of each coin is needed to equal a designated amount.
  • calculate the total amount of coins and compare two amounts to determine which one is greater.


counting, money, U.S. coins, value

Materials Needed

  • large image of a penny, nickel, dime, quarter (see instructions below for creating those images)
  • a display of a variety of products with large, easy-t-read price tags on them; each product should have a value of at least $1 but not more than $2
  • coin chart worksheet; a 4-column chart, each column is headed with a different coin name -- penny, nickel, dime, and quarter (optional)
  • container of fake coins -- actual coins photocopied and laminated (optional)

The Lesson

Before the Lesson
If this lesson is students' introduction to coin values and counting money, you might create an enlarged penny, nickel, dime, and quarter. The coins should be proportional in size. You might create these enlarged images by

  • drawing the coins freehand.
  • arranging one of each coin on a photocopier. Photocopy, then enlarge, the images of the coins. Cut them out for display.
  • arranging one of each coin on a photocopier. Photocopy the coins, then copy the image(s) onto transparency film. Place the transparency on an overhead projector, project the image onto a large sheet of poster paper, and trace each coin. Then cut out.

Teaching the Lesson
Create a 4-column chart on the board or a sheet of chart paper. Post a different coin at the top of each column (penny first, then nickel, dime, and quarter). Talk about the name of each coin and its value; write the appropriate name and value next to each coin.

Tell students to pretend that you are going to give each one of them ten cents. Ask: What coins might I give you? As students share some of the possibilities, write the number of coins in the appropriate column on the chart. For example:

Pennies Nickels Dimes Quarters
10 0 0 0
5 1 0 0
0 2 0 0
0 0 1 0

Remind students that in many cases -- as with the 10 cents -- there is more than one way, or one combination of coins, that will equal a given amount.

You might ask students at this time how much money you would need to have if you were to give each one of them ten cents. How can they figure that out? One way would be to have the students count off my 10's.

Tell students that today they are going to practice using different coin combinations to add up to a specific amount. Introduce the day's activity as a special variation on the TV game show "The Price Is Right." Introduce to students five to ten products. Each product has on it a large price tag; the cost of each product should be written large and clear on the price tag. Each product should have a value of at least $1.00, but no more than $2.00.

Select one product and let students share a variety of coin arrangements that add up to the cost of the product. You might call on individual students to come to the board/chart to share their ideas about -- and fill in the 4-column chart to illustrate -- the coin combinations that might be used.

Next, arrange students into pairs. Provide each pair of students with a product and its price tag. Have students create a chart similar to the one you modeled above. (Alternative: You might provide a printed chart for students to fill in.) Have students work with their partners to fill in the chart; the coin combinations on each row of the chart must equal the value of the product. As students work to fill in their charts, you might wander the classroom to help students who seem to be having difficulty with the activity.

Note: If this is students' introduction to the concept, you might create a jar of printed/laminated coins. Using these "coins" will provide hands-on practice.

If students need additional practice, provide each group with a different product. Repeat the activity.

When you are satisfied that students grasp the concept and are comfortable working with the chart format, provide each group with another product. This time, each student will work independently to fill in the chart. You might work closely with students who seem to need reinforcement. Give students a few minutes to fill in their charts to reflect at least several combinations of coins that equal the cost of the product. Then encourage students to share and compare the charts they have created and to check each other's work.

Repeat the activity a few more times. Students might work together to fill in a chart to represent the group's work.

Review with students the concept that there is not usually just one way (one coin combination) to form an amount. The same amount of money can be represented with a variety of coins.

Extend the Lesson
Provide two illustrations of a combination of coins. For example:

Pennies Nickels Dimes Quarters
8 4 2 5
4 2 4 5

Ask students to determine which coin combination above is greater. (The second combination of coins, which is valued at $1.79, is greater than the first one, which has a value of $1.73.)


  • Listen and evaluate students' identification of coins and their values.
  • Observe how students work with their partners to find various ways to make the amount.
  • Listen and evaluate students' coin combinations and their reasoning behind them.
  • Provide an homework assignment that will reinforce the activity. Discuss/review the assignment the next day.
  • As a final assessment, display a new product and its price tag. Have students complete a chart to illustrate at least four coin combinations that add up to the amount of the product.

Submitted By

Christa Broadwater, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown (Pennsylvania)

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