Dear Family, your Operation Maths guide to Money

Dear Family, your Operation Maths guide to Money

Dear Family, listed below are some practical suggestions as to how you might support your children’s understanding of the maths topic of money. Also below, are a series of links to digital resources that will help both the children, and you, learn more about money. The digital resources are organised according to approximate class level.

Junior Infants to Second Class
You can also find class specific tips at the back of your child’s Operation Maths At Home book, for infants to second class, and in the Operation Maths Dear Family letters for third to sixth class.

Practical Suggestions for all Children

  • Difficult Topic? Although money plays a very common, and perhaps very important, part in every child’s life, money is not automatically easy or obvious to learn about:
    • It comes in different colours, shapes and sizes, and in metal and paper forms (i.e. coins and notes), each of which has its own value.
    • The sizes of the coins and notes are NOT proportional to their value i.e. a 20c coin is not twice as big as a 10c coin; a €100 note is not ten times the size of the €10 note.
    • Money can be expressed using the symbols € or c, but NOT using both at the same time. Sometimes there’s a decimal point; sometimes there’s not. And, when using the € sign, it comes first (even though €6 is said as “six euro” as opposed to “euro six”), whereas the c sign comes after the numeral.
    • So even though understanding and using money is a vital life skill, it can’t be taken for granted that children will easily “get” this understanding.
  • Cash starved: More and more, transactions are becoming cashless, as people use credit/debit cards, money apps, contactless and online payments more than ever before. In the recent past, coins and notes, were very much a regular part of a child’s experiences; watching others counting out coins and notes to pay for goods, perhaps handing over a larger amount than required and watching change being handed back. Because of cashless transactions, today’s children are missing out on essential opportunities to handle cash, and/or see it being handled in real-life situations. The increased use of plastic and contactless payments also limits the opportunities for people to use their maths skills to total mentally, calculate change etc.
  • Cash is King: Since today’s children have less exposure to cash transactions, where possible, allow your child to handle real coins and notes.
    • Collect coins in a jar and invite your child to count the money every so often to find out the total. Are there different ways to count mixed coins? What strategies might be better (more efficient)?
    • If your child is not able to count up the total of amounts yet, then ask them to sort the coins into groups e.g. brown coins, gold coins, coins with two colours, coins with 1 on them, with 2 on them, with 5 on them etc (see also the Coins Game below). In particular, draw their attention to the fact that all the euro coins and notes only start with the digits 1, 2 or 5 and may or may not be followed by one or two zeros.
    • Play shop at home. Use empty food containers etc., as goods to be bought/sold. Use play money or real coins for cash.
    • If shopping with cash, involve your child: get them to handle the money, to identify the coins and/or most suitable amount to hand to the cashier and to predict (roughly or accurately, depending on the ability of the child) the change due back.
    • If your child gets pocket money encourage them to talk about how much they have, how much they spend, how much they have left.
  • Can you afford it? Should you buy it? While cashless transactions might be more regular than cash ones, one thing that has remained constant is that we all still appreciate the value of money, and getting value for our money.
    • Encourage your child to budget and save for upcoming events (Christmas, holidays etc.) and/or to purchase more expensive items ( eg bike, games console, phone etc). Discuss the amount of money required, how much they currently have, how much they could expect to earn and/or save each week, how long it will take for them to have the necessary amount. Encourage them to write down this information as a type of written budget or financial plan (see also the Budget Game below, for 3rd class up).
    • When purchasing items encourage your child to consider its value, its cost, and whether a similar item be purchased elsewhere for less. Shop around, as they say, to research your options, whether in the actual or virtual (online) shops.
    • When grocery shopping, keep an eye out for the advertised special offers and deals; are they good options? What about multi-packs; are they good value? If there are different multi-pack offers for the same product, which offer is the best value? But don’t forget that just because there is good value on offer, if we end up buying more of the product than we need, will it end up going to waste?
    • Go through the till receipt together after shopping; what did you buy? What items cost the most? What items cost the least? What products cost about the same amount? Was there any product that you hadn’t realised cost so much or so little?
    • When out shopping for clothes, give your child a limit to the amount that can be spent. It is amazing how value-driven this can make your child become, and more selective of what they will purchase!
    • If you are comfortable allowing your child to use the internet, he/she could help research a holiday or break for the family. Examine together which destination has the best deal/offers, etc.
  • Money makes the world go round! Children may not realise that, outside of the Euro Zone, most countries have their own currency. And they may also not realise that, when changing currency, you cannot do a straight swap i.e. €1 doesn’t equal £1 or $1; the new value must be calculated using an exchange rate, which also varies. If going on holiday to a non-Euro Zone country, involve your child in researching the exchange rate, and calculating how much of the foreign currency they will get when they exchange their euro.

Digital Resources for Infants

Spot the coins | Students | MoneySenseSpot the coins: Beginner level: Find the coins hidden in each picture. Advanced level: find the coins and order them according to value.

Topmarks' Coins Learning Game Gets Even Better | The Topmarks Blog

Coins game: Click on the Euro flag to select euro coins. Start with Sorting to sort One Coin or Two Coins into the money box(es). Next try Ordering and Counting money. Start with the easier options in each section and move on if too simple and/or when confident.

Toy Shop Money – learning game | The Topmarks BlogToy Shop: Work out which coins will buy toy shop items, using just One Coin or Mixed Coins. In the Mixed Coins option you can also calculate change.  Start with the easier options and move on if too simple and/or when confident.

5-8 | Students | MoneySenseKeep Helen’s money safe: Read the story and decide what Helen should do with her money to keep it safe. Play ages 5-6

Moneyville | Seomra RangaMoneyville is a fun and entertaining online virtual world that gives your child a basic understanding of the value of money and the basic principles behind earning and spending money. Suitable for children of 5 years and up.

My Money Week Resources - Young Enterprise & Young MoneyMy Money Week: Run every year in the UK around May, this is a national activity week which aims to boost children’s skills, knowledge and confidence in money matters. To access the resources, you need to set up a free account, which requires email details etc and entering any UK postcode. Once registered and logged in, scroll down to the bottom of the primary resources and click on Start journey; this will start off a series of excellent videos on Max’s Day Out, in which Max is deciding how best he might spend the money that he got for his birthday. The videos are designed in such a way that each one presents two possible options; the viewer selects an option, which automatically brings them to the follow-up video for their choice. There are many other resources also available here that focus on managing money.

Homepage | Values, Money & MeValues, Money and Me: This is a set of stories, activities and quizzes that encourage children to consider what money can and cannot buy. These stories are particularly suited to younger children: Finders Keepers, I want it, Do the Right Thing, Charity Job Week & Hero or Zero.

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesMoney Match: Match the coins to the correct value. As some of these coins may be less familiar to children in the infant classes, encourage them to match the easier coins first. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesMoney Match Amounts: Match the coins to the correct amount. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesCount up: Count up the value of the coins shown. Use the + and – buttons to enter the value and then check. For infants, change the option on the bottom left side of the screen to use coins up to and including 2c initially, and then increase the options as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesCoin Exchange: Swap the coin shown for the stated number of coins of lesser value. For infant classes, change the option on the top left side of the screen to exchange coins up to and including 10c initially, and then increase the options as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

IXL | Maths and English Practice

Money: a selection of games from ixl.com. You can do a number of free quizzes each day without having a subscription. (Please note that the class levels given do not always align accurately with the content of the Irish Primary Curriculum.) 

Digital Resources for First and Second Classes

Spot the coins | Students | MoneySenseSpot the coins: Beginner level: Find the coins hidden in each picture. Advanced level: find the coins and order them according to value.

Topmarks' Coins Learning Game Gets Even Better | The Topmarks BlogCoins game: Click on the Euro flag so select euro coins. Start with Sorting to sort One Coin or Two Coins into the money box(es). Next try Ordering and Counting money. Start with the easier options in each section and move on if too simple and/or when confident.

Toy Shop Money – learning game | The Topmarks BlogToy Shop: Work out which coins will buy toy shop items, using just One Coin or Mixed Coins. In the Mixed Coins option you can also calculate change.  Start with the easier options and move on if too simple and/or when confident.

Moneyville | Seomra RangaMoneyville is a fun and entertaining online virtual world that gives your child a basic understanding of the value of money and the basic principles behind earning and spending money. Suitable for children of 5 years and up.

5-8 | Students | MoneySenseKeep Helen’s money safe: Read the story, decide what Helen should do with her money to keep it safe, and keep a record of the money that she gets along the way. Play ages 7-8.

My Money Week Resources - Young Enterprise & Young MoneyMy Money Week: Run every year in the UK around May, this is a national activity week which aims to boost children’s skills, knowledge and confidence in money matters. To access the resources, you need to set up a free account, which requires email details etc and entering any UK postcode. Once registered and logged in, scroll down to the bottom of the primary resources and click on Start journey; this will start off a series of excellent videos on Max’s Day Out, in which Max is deciding how best he might spend the money that he got for his birthday. The videos are designed in such a way that each one presents two possible options; the viewer selects an option, which automatically brings them to the follow-up video for their choice. There are many other resources also available here that focus on managing money.

Homepage | Values, Money & MeValues, Money and Me: This is a set of stories, activities and quizzes that encourage children to consider what money can and cannot buy. These stories are particularly suited to younger children: Finders Keepers, I want it, Do the Right Thing, Charity Job Week & Hero or Zero.

Coin cruncher | Students | MoneySenseCoin Cruncher: In this game you either select the correct coins to Make the Total or select the correct value for How much? There is an Easy level (no timer) and a Hard level (same question types but with a timer).

5-8 | Students | MoneySenseThe Change Game: Click on the correct amount of change that you should get back.

ThatQuiz.org | Amazing automatic quiz generator! Awesome fun ...That Quiz – Money: This quiz has lots of options, on the left hand side, that can be changed to suit the ability of the child. Ensure that the currency is set to Euro and the level is set to 1. Each time do the set 10 questions, if you get 10 or 9 correct go up a level, if not stay at that level. There are three different types of activities: For Identify (it automatically starts on this) you must type in the value of the cash shown; if you set it to Compare you must click on the amount of greater value; if you set it to Make change you must click on the cash required to make the correct change for the given transaction.  

Digging Deeper into ... Money (all classes) - Operation Maths

Adding Money Values: This video from Operation Maths allows the children to practice their addition of money skills.

Custom Car GarageCustom Car Garage: Select and pay for car accessories, using the correct coins. For first and second class, start at level one initially, and then go up levels as the child gets more competent.

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesMoney Match: Match the coins to the correct value. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesMoney Match Amounts: Match the coins to the correct amount. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesCount up: Count up the value of the coins shown. Use the + and – buttons to enter the value and then check. For first and second class, change the option on the bottom left side of the screen to use coins up to and including 10c initially, and then increase the options as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money Games

Shopping Spree: Choose the correct coins to purchase the presents. For first and second class, change the option on the bottom left side of the screen to buy items costing between 10c- 99c initially, and then increase the options as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player). You can also play a timed version of this game here.

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesChange Please: Choose the correct coins to make the change required. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player). You can also play a timed version of this game here.

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesCoin Exchange: Swap the coin shown for the stated number of coins of lesser value. Change the option on the top left side of the screen to exchange coins up to and including 10c or 20c initially, and then increase the options if too simple or as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Topmarks on Twitter: "In our Coconut Ordering game you can compare ...Coconut Ordering Game: Select Prices and € to order amounts of euro

IXL | Maths and English PracticeMoney: a selection of games from ixl.com. You can do a number of free quizzes each day without having a subscription. (Please note that the class levels given do not always align accurately with the content of the Irish Primary Curriculum.) 

Digital Resources for Third to Sixth Classes

Compound InterestMoney: Background information on money from Maths is Fun, including currencies, finding unit price, interest, investing money, etc. Often there are also related activities. 

My Money Week Resources - Young Enterprise & Young MoneyMy Money Week: Run every year in the UK around May, this is a national activity week which aims to boost children’s skills, knowledge and confidence in money matters. To access the resources, you need to set up a free account, which requires email details etc and entering any UK postcode. Once registered and logged in, scroll down to the bottom of the primary resources and click on Start journey; this will start off a series of excellent videos on Max’s Day Out, in which Max is deciding how best he might spend the money that he got for his birthday. The videos are designed in such a way that each one presents two possible options; the viewer selects an option, which automatically brings them to the follow-up video for their choice. There are many other resources also available here that focus on managing money.

Homepage | Values, Money & MeValues, Money and Me: This is a set of stories, activities and quizzes that encourage children to consider what money can and cannot buy. These stories are particularly suited to older children: Finders Keepers, I want it, Charity Job Week, a Fair Day’s Pay, Do You Need It? & Costing the Earth.

Problem-Solving - Is It a Bargain? | SchoolsWorld | Math problem ...

Is it a bargain? This fun mini-maths lesson gets pupils to use their mathematical ability to work out if so called ‘special offers’ are in fact good deals.

ThatQuiz.org | Amazing automatic quiz generator! Awesome fun ...That Quiz – Money: This quiz has lots of options, on the left hand side, that can be changed to suit the ability of the child. Ensure that the currency is set to Euro and the level is set to 1. Each time do the set 10 questions, if you get 10 or 9 correct go up a level, if not stay at that level. There are three different types of activities: For Identify (it automatically starts on this) you must type in the value of the cash shown; if you set it to Compare you must click on the amount of greater value; if you set it to Make change you must click on the cash required to make the correct change for the given transaction.  

Topmarks on Twitter: "In our Coconut Ordering game you can compare ...Coconut Ordering Game: Select Prices and € to order amounts of euro

Space trader | Students | MoneySenseSpace Trader: Practise spotting value for money as you trade with three outlandish alien shopkeepers for a range of space commodities. 

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesCount up: Count up the value of the coins shown. Use the + and – buttons to enter the value and then check. Change the option on the bottom left side of the screen to use coins up to and including 50c initially, and then increase the options if this is too simple or as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesShopping Spree: Choose the correct coins to purchase the presents. Change the option on the bottom left side of the screen to buy items costing between €1.00 – €5.00, and then increase the options if too simple or as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player). You can also play a timed version of this game here.

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesChange Please: Choose the correct coins to make the change required. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player). You can also play a timed version of this game here.

Teaching Money (Euro) - Money Apps :: Money Worksheets :: Money GamesCoin Exchange: Swap the coin shown for the stated number of coins of lesser value. Change the option on the top left side of the screen to exchange coins up to and including 10c or 20c initially, and then increase the options if too simple or as the child gets more competent. (Not tablet friendly – requires Adobe Flash Player).

Ratios and Unit Rate Examples and Word Problems! - YouTubeCalculating Unit Rates: For 5th & 6th classes, this visual video from MashUp Math explains how to calculate unit rates, which has applications in unitary value in money, averages, ratios and proportion etc

Sales Tax, Ratios and Proportions Practice Problem! - YouTubeFind the Total Cost: Again for 5th & 6th classes, this video from MashUp Math explains how to find the total cost, involving sales tax, ratios and proportions.

8-12 | Students | MoneySenseThe Budget Game: Older children can explore the realities of budgeting, income and expenditure as well as how their own choices affect their money, well-being and enjoyment balances.  

IXL | Maths and English Practice

Money: a selection of games from ixl.com. You can do a number of free quizzes each day without having a subscription. (Please note that the class levels given do not always align accurately with the content of the Irish Primary Curriculum.) 


Digging Deeper into … Money (all classes)

For practical suggestions for families, and helpful links to digital resources, to support children learning about the topic of money, please check out the following post: Dear Family, your Operation Maths Guide to Money

Similar to the strand unit of time, money is an integral element of our daily lives and therefore an essential, “need-to-know” topic in primary maths, particularly for those children with special educational needs or learning difficulties. And, while it is not as abstract as the topic of time, it still can be a concept with which many children struggle. Consider the nature of money itself:

  • It comes in different shapes and sizes, and in metal and paper forms (i.e. coins and notes) each of which has its own value.
  • The sizes of the coins and notes are not proportional to their value i.e. a 20c coin is not twice as big as a 10c coin; a €100 is not ten times the size of the €10. Therefore, while money can be used as a base-ten material, unlike the base-ten blocks, it is not proportional.
  • Money can be expressed as € or c, but not as both. And when using the € sign it precedes the numbers (even though it is verbalised as “six euro” as opposed to “euro six”), where as the c sign comes after the numeral.
  • Countries often use different currencies; this can lead to confusion when children presume that dollars and pounds are used in this country, because they hear this terminology regularly from imported TV programmes.
  • When changing currencies you cannot do a straight swap i.e. €1 doesn’t equal £1 or $1; the new value must be calculated using an exchange rate, which also varies.
  • More and more, transactions are becoming cashless, as people use credit and debit cards more than ever before. Thus, children are missing out on essential opportunities to handle cash, or see it being handled in real-life situations. The increased use of plastic and contactless payments also limits the opportunities for people to total mentally, calculate change etc.

Elicit prior knowledge & concrete exploration

At every class level, it is always a good idea to elicit the children’s prior knowledge, which can be very varied, depending on the experiences they’ve had with money. Even some simple revision questions can be very revealing, such as these:

  • ‘What currency/money do we use in Ireland?’
  • ‘Do you know of any other countries that use the euro?’
  • ‘Can you name the coin/note with the least value? And the next? And the next?’ etc

Even in a senior class, the answers to the last question can often be ‘1c, 2c, 3c, 4c…’ as the children forget or don’t realise that there is not a single coin for each value. In keeping with the CPA approach of Operation Maths,  these type of questions should be followed with opportunities to explore and examine the actual notes and coins, and the similarities and differences between them. And, if there is not enough real or replica money, the Sorting eManipulative, accessible via edcolearning.ie, can be a very useful way to display the coins and notes (see below).

Do you notice any pattern? Many children, and even some adults, don’t recognise that our euro money follows a ‘1, 2, 5’ pattern i.e. every note or coin has either 1, 2 or 5 as its most significant digit (look at the columns above). Once the children recognise this, they are less likely to suggest using a ‘3c coin’ or a ‘7c coin’ etc to make a value. To improve their familiarity with the coins, even children in junior infants could use them for pre-number sorting purposes, eg using coins for sorting by size, colour, shape etc. They don’t need to be restricted to just coins up to 5c (the traditional limit for junior infants), as the focus is not on number. Play activities based on money e.g. the shop, post office, restaurant etc should also be encouraged, particularly as the basis for Aistear themes.

Exploring the value of the coins

Recognising the value of each individual coin is one thing, recognising that one coin can be exchanged for a number of coins of equal value is very different. This is why it can be very useful to represent the value of the coins concretely. This can be done by attaching coins to large squared card and/or ten and five frames. Grid paper with 2cm squares is perfect for this. Just print out/photocopy onto white or coloured paper or light card and then cut out into sections that relate to five and ten frames (see image below):

  • 1c, 2c, 5c on to strips of 1, 2 or 5 squares respectively
  • 10c onto a 2×5 section i.e. ten frame
  • 20c onto a 4×5 section, with a bold line through centre to show each ten
  • 50c onto a 10×5 section, with 4 bold lines to show each ten

This reinforces the benchmarks of five and ten, while building on the children’s ability to subitise (recognise at a glance) these quantities.

These materials can then be used for exchanging activities, where the children identify different ways to make various values, i.e “same value, different appearance”,  e.g. what coins could we use instead of 2c, 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, etc. When the children are comfortable making these values they should then make values that are not equivalent to a single coin e.g. 6c, 13c, 23c etc. Ultimately, it is hoped that the children will be able to visualise the value of the coins without needing the visual supports shown above.

Mental calculations with money

Despite the face that our society is becoming increasingly cashless, mental calculations with money should still be emphasised and, in particular, the strategy of making change. Officially referred to a complementary addition, where you add on to subtract, it has also been known as “shopkeepers arithmetic” given its application in those situations. It is also one of the specific subtraction strategies dealt with in Number Talks, where it is referred to as Adding up (all of the other Number Talks strategies are also relevant to calculations involving money, but this one is worthy of a special mention).  Complementary addition is also one of the strategies used in Operation Maths, where it is shown using the visual strategy of an empty number line (see below).

Visual Strategies for Problem Solving

A key element of Operation Maths is the use of three specific visual strategies to support the development of problem solving skills. These are empty number lines (as shown above), bar models and T-charts. T-charts are particularly useful to solve problems based on the unitary method, as shown below.

Bar models can be very useful to model addition and subtraction problems e.g. where the whole amount is known and a part is missing or where the parts are known and the whole is missing. The type of models shown below are referred to a part-whole models.

For more information on the visual problem solving strategies used in Operation Maths 3-6, please read this post.

Other tips and suggestions for teaching money

  • Emphasise that money is based on the euro. Cent coins are merely fractions of that unit; euro coins and notes are multiples of that unit. In this way money can also be used to help teach other strand units, including place value, operations and decimals (see examples below).
  • Using money to represent place value with whole numbers and decimals

    Using money to model 2-digit division

    Using money to model decimals to hundredths

  • Emphasise the importance of using an efficient estimation strategy when calculating with money:
    • front-end estimation: where you only consider the most significant digit i.e. think of €26.95 as €20
    • rounding: where you round to the nearest unit, ten etc, i.e. think of €26.95 as €27 or as €30. Rounding produces more accurate estimates than front-end estimation; however, it can also be more time-consuming for some children and thus less efficient.
  • Value for money: Encourage the children to compare prices in different shops and/or catalogues to identify the best price and when comparing items being sold as multiples to compare their values using the unitary method and T-charts, as shown above.
  • Use That Quiz for an interactive quiz based on euro. Use the options on the left hand side to change the difficulty (level) and the scope of questions (identify, compare or make change). For more on using That Quiz in the classroom read on here.

Further Reading:


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