Show Them the Money!

By Robin Lundgren

History and math mingle during this month’s Presidents’ Day holiday with a fun money activity. Kids discover what some of our nation’s leaders did to earn a place on U.S. currency, while gaining experience counting money and making change. So gather together some coins and bills and get ready to show them the money!

What you need…

-An assortment of coins and bills, preferably one example of each: penny, nickel, dime, quarter, dollar bill, five dollar bill, ten dollar bill, twenty dollar bill, fifty dollar bill, one hundred dollar bill. Use real money or print out play money at

-Paper, pencil

– Small, sticky notes

-index cards


-newspapers and magazines

What to do…

1.Give your child the money or examples of money that you have gathered for her to work with. Tell her to put the coins and bills in order, from least value to greatest.

2.Have your child examine a penny. Does she know what president is pictured on the penny? Tell her that the president is Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. Have her label Lincoln on the penny as 16th using a sticky note.

3.Ask your child to find the presidents on the other currency and label what number president they were. Point out to him that two U.S. bills have pictures of famous people who were not presidents. The $10 bill depicts Alexander Hamilton, who was Secretary of the Treasury from 1789-1795. The $100 bill has a picture of inventor Ben Franklin. (Other currency: nickel – Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president; dime – Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president; quarter – George Washington, 1st president; dollar bill – George Washington; $5 – Abraham Lincoln; $20 – Andrew Jackson, 7th president; $50 – Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president).

4.After your child is done labeling the money, ask her if any presidents are on more than one denomination of currency. Why does she think the same President is pictured on more than one coin or bill?

5.Take a quarter and a dollar bill and set them aside. Tell your child that George Washington, who is pictured on the quarter and dollar, was the first U.S. president. Instruct your child check the sticky notes to find which coin or bill has a picture of the president that next held office. Have him put that coin or bill next to the quarter and dollar. Direct him to put the other coins and bills in order of presidency, creating a money timeline.

6.Point out that Thomas Jefferson, pictured on the nickel, was the 3rd president. How many presidents were between Washington and Jefferson? How many presidents were between Washington and Lincoln? Between Jefferson and Lincoln?

7.Take 5 to 10 index cards and ask your child to draw some pictures of some food items to buy, such as milk, bread, eggs or candy. Kids can also cut out pictures of food from newspapers and magazines and glue them to the cards.

8.Have your child assign a price to each item he has put on his index cards.

9.Give your child bills and coins totaling $5 and ask her to estimate how many items she can buy without going over $5. Give her scratch paper and help her check her estimate. How many items can she buy without going over $10?

10.Pretend that you are the shopper and your child is the cashier. Select cards of items to buy and ask him to add up the total amount you owe. Pay your child and instruct him in how to give change. Give him scratch paper to check the amount of change to give.

The Math/Science Connection….

This activity provides kids with the opportunity to practice sequencing, adding, subtracting and estimating. Kids also enjoy modeling the real-life skills of shopping, adding up an order and making change. Pulling in history makes this a wonderful cross-curricular activity and a great way to celebrate Presidents’ Day.

Robin Lundgren is a writer and Vice President of Aquarian Entertainment.

Looking to experience Hands-On Science activities right here in our own area? Visit, where you and your children can “Explore, Create, Inspire.” The Children’s Science Center (CSC) is committed to building a place where children can grow in their love of learning.


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