Money is an important aspect in all of our lives and children need to be exposed to it at school, as we are living in a world where money is becoming intangible. As adults, we handle money less and less and, because we pay by card, mobile or bank transfer so children don't tend to see coins or notes as much as they used to. So how can we teach children about money, how it makes the world go round, in a creative way that makes it relevant to their lives?

Discussions about money

It's a good idea to start discussions off with a general overview so that children get to understand the context. Some example questions that could be used are:

  • Why do we need money?
  • How would we manage without money?
  • Is everything that we consider precious worth a lot of money?
  • Is there anything that money can't buy?
  • Do the children have pocket money?
  • Do they spend it all or save some?
  • Does anyone have to work for their money?
  • Is a bartering system a good idea?
  • Where does your pocket money come from? (See how far it can be traced back: parent, employer, bank, etc).
  • Talk about imperial and metric coins.

Items for display

Displays could consist of currency from this and other countries. If you choose to display other country's money then it may be a good idea to have a conversion chart. You could also put sample cheques and paying in books on the display, pretend debit or credit cards and purses or wallets. Electronic forms of payment such as Apple Pay and Chip and PIN could also be shown in some way. An interactive resource such as a shop, bank or post office would also work well further down the school.

Activities, ideas and investigations

Here are some creative ideas about how to teach money. The main driver is to get the children thinking about money in a deeper way than just counting coins and notes. Obviously some of these won't be relevant for KS2 maths and some won't be relevant for KS1 maths either.

  • Have a day when the children get paid in buttons for working, helping, tidying up, etc. By the end of the day they will have an unmanageable amount of buttons. How can we ease the problem of bulk? Should the bigger/metal/pretty ones be worth more?

  • On a hundred square, allow one small square to represent 1p and therefore one strip to represent 10p. Ask the children to colour given amounts or interpret the amounts shown on the square. This can also be done using Cuisenaire apparatus.

  • Can the children devise a ready reckoner to convert one currency to another. For example, pounds to euros.

  • Make a table to show different ways to pay for an item. Work out the fewest coins (or notes) to pay for the different items.

  • Discuss the purchasing power of notes and coins. What can I buy for 50p? £10? 5p?

  • Calculate the approximate amount that your family spends on, say for example, crisps every year. Use historical records from the library or the local museum to research family budgets from the past.

  • Visit a local shop to research the prices of a range of items. Devise a table with gaps to be completed.

  • Count money by sorting into types of coins, and then into piles of given amounts. Design a money sorting machine to do this for you.

  • Cost real events. Organise and run a tuck shop at school for a month, purchasing stock and keeping income and expenditure accounts. You could also make things to sell at the christmas fair or take part in make five pounds grow, where the children are given £5 and asked to make as much money from it as possible.

  • Consider the shopkeeper's method for giving change. Devise a flowchart to show how decisions are made and develop a computer program for this.

  • Discuss simple economics. How many people are in getting an item to a shelf in a shop? How much of the selling price goes to each individual involved? If a toy car costs £12 and the retailers get 30% of the selling price, how much do they actually receive when they're selling the car.

  • Calculate the cost of baking a birthday cake or making a buggy in a technology lesson.

  • Plan a party for either younger children or parents. Estimate amounts of food, find out the prices from shops, and work out the price per head.

  • Practise rounding by adding up a long shopping till receipt.

  • Find three items that cost approximately the same in a catalogue. Consider which gives the best value and why? Would everyone agree with you?

  • Buy three packs of biscuits and find the cost of an individual biscuit for each pack. What do you consider to be best value and why?

  • Compare the prices at a local shop with those in a large supermarket. Discuss the reasons for the differences and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Is it cheaper to buy in bulk? Why?

  • Plan a residential school trip. Sort the class into different groups each having responsibility for costing one aspect such as accomodation, travel arrangements, catering and activities. Provide timetables, menus, maps, etc. Conduct surveys into the likes and dislikes of classmates, and come up with sample costings for several different types of trips.

Write about money

Another way to bring money to the forefront in your class is to use it as a focus in literacy lessons. Ask the class to write stories about something small but expensive; something large but not worth a lot; something so precious that you can't buy it :)

Play board games about money

Monopoly is the obvious choice here. You can use this as an opportunity to discuss how much house prices have risen since the game was created and devise new amounts that would be relevant today. The class could also create a new version of the game based on their local area.

I was lucky enough to be given a copy of a fabulous board game called Business on the move. Its a logistics game where you move shipping containers from China to shops in the UK. My class found it really enjoyable and its definitely worth investing in because so much can be learned from it. I wrote about it in a previous article entitled Business Skills For KS2 Children. Remember that you can also make your own maths board game centered around money.

Use technology to teach money in a creative way

One way to bring this up to date is by using the internet and online shops. Give the children a budget of £100 to buy Christmas presents for their family. Have them visit an online store to find the items and then fill in a spreadsheet with the details. This can be done collaboratively using Google Sheets too.

Create a spreadsheet of the prices of basic foodstuff. Get the children to budget for several different imaginary families, living in an imaginary street, for example a single parent with one child, a young couple and a family of six. Remind the children the importance of a healthy diet and get them to plan accordingly.

Another way to get children higher up the school to understand the value of money is to give them a budget of, say, £2000 and get them to research and plan a family holiday. I've done this before by starting the lesson off with a video about a foreign country (The Venga Boys - We're going to Ibiza!) and getting them hooked. I've extended it by getting them to find out bus times from their house to the train station, train times to the airport and then a taxi transfer at the other end. They work collaboratively on Google Sheets in groups of two or three to come up with the most attractive solution.

And lastly...

There are many creative ways to teach money in a primary school. Worksheets have their place in helping children pass exams and embed skills but practical activities like these teach higher level thinking skills and bring maths into the real world which is where it belongs.


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