How much is money worth?

How much is money worth?

Bartering, or trading items for other things, is found in all ancient and present civilizations. Prior to the use of coins or paper banknotes, societies bartered to get the things they wanted or needed. Throughout this time of bartering, certain items held specific value.  Eventually, standard items would be used, again and again, to “purchase” other things.

Many items have been used as money throughout the world.  Cattle, cowrie shells, feathers, salt, ivory, whales’ teeth, jewelry, and tools have been used as money for some societies. North American Indians used Wampum, strings of white beads made from clam shells, as money. Eventually, most societies used coins and paper money for trade. It’s easy to see that the other forms of money might become cumbersome, although today some societies still use and prefer barter in place of money.

Metal coins have been used as money as far back as 1000 BC.  The Chinese created bronze and copper imitations of shells at the end of the Stone Age. In 118 BC, one-foot-square pieces of white deerskin leather were used as money in China. Some people consider the leather pieces the first banknote. By 806 AD, the first paper banknotes were used in China.

In 1816, gold became the standard of value in England. The worth of banknotes was tied to the value of gold. In 1900, the Gold Standard Act officially tied banknotes to gold in the United States. This gold standard lasted only until the 1930s.

Today, the value of money is most easily measured by comparing the goods that can be purchased now with what could be purchased in the past. A gallon of milk sold for $1.69 in 1980. The cost of that milk today would average $2.49 a gallon.

A dozen eggs cost 24 cents in 1927 and nearly 89 cents today.

Be sure to store eggs in a refrigerator. A refrigerator in 1927 cost about $195. A 25.2-cubic-foot refrigerator with an ice crusher and water dispenser costs nearly $1000.00 today.

A dollar in 1927 was worth more than today’s dollar. In fact, having a few nickels or dimes in 1927 could have purchased dinner for your family. Today, pocket change can hardly buy a bag of pretzels or chips.


National Teaching Standards:

NCTM Standards for Pre-K-2-Problem Solving; Connections; Representation

This activity demonstrates the value of coins when compared to each other.

NOTE: Educators/Parents should consider reading the entire text to their children, if necessary, as they assist them with the activity.

K – (coins can be real or cutouts) 25 pennies, 5 nickels, 2 dimes, 1 quarter, candy, sandwich bags, worksheet
1- same coins as needed for K activity, worksheet
2- various items with a “price tag” attached, same coins as needed for K activity, worksheet
NOTE: All worksheets are located at the end of this activity.

Activity for Students in Kindergarten

  1. Demonstrate the following with an adult and a child.
    • The child receives a quarter.
    • The student “buys” candy from the adult with the quarter.
    • The adult takes the quarter from the child. The child receives 2 dimes and candy.
    • Discuss how the two “new” coins (dimes) have less “value” than one “old” coin (the quarter).
    • The fact you now have two coins instead of one does not mean you have more money. These coins do not have the same value.
  2. Demonstrate the following with an adult and a child.
    • Place 1 quarter on a table.
    • Place 2 dimes beside the quarter.
    • Even though 2 coins (dimes) may seem to be worth more than 1 coin (quarter), 1 quarter has more value than 2 dimes.
    • Place 10 pennies beside each dime. (You will need 20 pennies for both dimes.)
    • The 20 pennies beside the dimes still do not equal the value of 1 quarter.
    • Place 5 more pennies beside those already on the table.
    • This group of 25 pennies is now equal to 1 quarter. The 25 pennies and the 1 quarter have the same value. Both coins can also be called 25 cents.
    • The following part of this activity should also be demonstrated with an adult and a child.
      Complete Worksheet A as the activity is conducted.
    • Place 1 quarter beside 25 pennies. Complete Question 1.
    • Place 1 quarter beside 2 dimes and 1 nickel. Complete Question 2.
    • Place 1 quarter beside 5 nickels. Complete Question 3.
    • Place 1 dime beside 10 pennies. Complete Question 4.
    • Place 1 dime beside 2 nickels. Complete Question 5.
    • Place 1 nickel beside 5 pennies. Complete Question 6.

Activity for Students in Grade ONE
NOTE: Conduct the Kindergarten Activity before you begin this listed Activity.

  1. Review the value for all coins used in the Kindergarten activity. (example: 1 quarter equals 25 pennies)
  2. Review how combinations of coins have equal value. (example: 1 quarter equals 2 dimes and 1 nickel)
  3. Complete Worksheet B.

Activity for Students in Grade TWO
NOTE: Conduct the Kindergarten and Grade One Activities before you begin this listed Activity.

  1. Have a large group of coins in a sandwich bag.
  2. Children can “buy” items on which an adult has already placed price tags.
  3. Complete Worksheet C as the activity is conducted.


  1. Practice subtraction with coins to learn how change can be provided when you buy items.
  2. Use your school’s menu and its price list to understand which coins are needed to buy a sample meal. (Or make up your own menu with food and prices listed)


  1. Write the correct number in each blank.


  1. You need to buy gifts for your friend’s birthday party. You will need to get money from your piggy bank. The first coins that fall from your piggy bank are 2 dimes and 5 pennies. How many cents fell from the bank? _____ cents.
  2. Add the money shown in each of the piggy banks below. Write your answer on the nose of each bank.


  1. Write the name of each item you can “buy” in the blanks below. Write down the coins you will need to “buy” each item.
    ITEM		Coins needed to buy the item
    _________________	________________________
    _________________	________________________
    _________________	________________________
    _________________	________________________
    _________________	________________________
    _________________	________________________
    _________________	________________________

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