Money: Naming and Sorting Coins

by Laurie Laurendeau on April 26, 2011

Money…it’s something we use almost daily.  While many adults think of loose change as pesky, children are often fascinated by coins.  In school, your child will learn the kindergarten math skill of  identifying the various coins.  He will also learn the value of each of the coins.


Children love games, and playing math games at home allows them to practice what they’re learning in school–without it seeming like homework. Try any or all of the following suggestions, and you’ll see your child’s knowledge and confidence grow!


  • Tell your child that all coins have 2 sides, and we often call them “Heads” and “Tails.”  The head side of the coin is technically the front side of the coin, and it is the side that is most often used in identifying U.S. coins.  It is important that your child become familiar with the different sizes, colors, and heads on each coin.
  • The penny is typically the easiest coin to spot due to its unique color.  The dime is the smallest of all the coins.  It is the nickel and the quarter that are the most difficult for children to distinguish.
  • Ask your child to examine the head side of each coin carefully, paying special attention to the nickel and the quarter.  Ask him to describe how the heads look different one from each other.  He might notice that some heads point in different directions, or that the hair looks different.  Identifying the different features on each coin will help him distinguish the coins, especially when he is looking at pictures of coins in his math books at school.


Materials: various coins, index cards, marker, coin rollers (optional)

  • Gather a handful of coins (real or play coins) and ask your child to sort them into piles by how they look.
  • Ask him if he knows the name of any of the coins.
  • Tell him the name of each of the coins, and write the names on an index card and place it in front of each pile.
  • Now take away the index cards and see if your child can match the name with each pile of coins.
  • This is a great activity if you have a coin jar that you need sorted.  Your child can sort the coins, and then drop them into coin rollers (while counting them) to take to the bank!


Materials: various coins, timer, scrap paper & pencil

  • Set a timer for one minute.  Grab a handful of coins and start the timer.
  • Quickly put one coin down on the table at a time, while your child names each coin as fast as possible.
  • Record how many coins he named correctly on the scrap paper.
  • Repeat the activity on different days, and see if he can beat his score.


  • It can sometimes be difficult for children to understand that each coin has a different value.  Your child may not yet be ready to count coins, but you can introduce what each coin is worth.  Tell him that a penny is worth 1 cent, a nickel is worth 5 cents, a dime is worth 10 cents, and a quarter is worth 25 cents.
  • Try involving your child in money activities in your everyday life.  When you are paying for an item at the store, be sure to point out the coins you are using to pay with, or the coins you receive as change.


  • If you give your child an allowance, pay it to him using various coins instead of bills.  Ask him to name each coin, and tell you its value.  If he has learned to count coins, you could also ask him to count it.


  • Some children are particularly interested in knowing whose head is on the front of coins.  Your child does not need to know this information, but just for fun:

Penny: Abraham Lincoln

Nickel: Thomas Jefferson

Dime: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Quarter: George Washington

What to Watch For

  • Children often think that the larger the coin (physically), the more it must be worth.  While this is true for most U.S. coins, the nickel and the dime do not follow this pattern.  Be mindful of the language you use with your child.  Instead of saying the “biggest” coin, say the coin that’s “worth” the most.
  • Watch out for special or commemorative coins.  These can be especially confusing to children, because the front and/or the back of the coin can look very different from the “regular” coin.  For example, in the U.S. they have minted special quarters to represent each state on the back of the coin.  There are also special nickels with different profile heads on the front.  These coins are exceptions and can be introduced to your child if you see fit.
  • Children at this age often think that the more coins they have, the more money they have. For example, if they have 10 pennies, they might think that they have a lot more money than one quarter.  Do not be concerned if your child thinks this at this stage.  It is more important that children understand that each coin has a different number (or value) associated to it.  They will have many opportunities to work with coins in the upcoming years.


  • As always, playing math games at home is a great way to reinforce math skills learned in school.
  • Have questions or ideas about this story?
  • Need help or advice about your child’s learning?
  • Have ideas for future Parent Homework Help stories?

Go to “Leave a Reply” at the bottom of this page.  I’d love to help!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: