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Teaching Special Education Students About Money Skills

Instructor: Abigail Cook
All children need to learn about money in order to become independent adults. Let's look at some effective ways to teach money skills in the special education classroom.

Money Skills

We use our understanding of numbers, math, and money every day. Whether we are shopping for groceries, making a budget, or paying a utility bill, we need to understand the basic concepts related to money and how much things cost. Many children learn money skills through general education and personal experience, or by watching their parents. However, students with disabilities often need special instruction to develop money skills.

Teaching Money Skills in Special Education

Let's look at some ideas you can incorporate in your classroom to help students with disabilities learn about money. These strategies can be used to teach students at a variety of levels, but don't necessarily have to be taught in a specific order. While these ideas are proven effective instructional practices, children with disabilities are unique in their strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to adapt these strategies to fit your learners and classroom setting.

Coin and Bill Recognition

One of the most basic and critical skills associated with understanding money is the difference between coins and bills. Before students can use money to pay for things, they need to understand, for example, how a penny compares to a quarter or dollar bill.

Here's a basic outline for teaching students how to recognize different forms of money; you may need to break down or skip some of the steps, depending on your students' level. Be sure to model these steps several times and give your students multiple opportunities to practice each one.

Match the Coins

Place a penny on the table and tell your students, ''This is a penny.'' Then give them their own pennies and say, ''Match the pennies.'' As you repeat this activity, add other coins to the table, such as nickels and dimes, and see if your students can still match their coins with the ones you place on the table. This activity should be repeated several times to make it stick.

Sort the Coins

Give your students a small handful of coins, including pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters. Place a penny on the table and ask them to put all of their pennies in one pile and their other coins in a separate pile.

Select the Coins

Place a penny, nickel, dime, and quarter on the table and say to students, ''Give me your pennies.'' Repeat this part of the activity several times.

As your students master identifying the penny, introduce the nickel, dime, quarter, dollar bill, and so on in the same way. By the end of this unit, your students should be able to pick out any specific coin or bill from a variety of options.

This same technique could be used to teach students the value of each coin and bill. Have students match coins to flashcards with the corresponding values. For example, the nickel would match a card with ''5 cents'' written on it. Then have students sort the coins into cups labeled with the different values and select the appropriate coin when you ask them to give you ''5 cents'' or ''25 cents.''

Counting Coins

Since counting pennies simply involves a basic one-to-one correspondence, let's look at some ways to teach counting nickels and dimes. Write out the numbers 1-100 on a large sheet of paper. Practice skip counting by 5s or 10s aloud with your students, highlighting the numbers as you go. For example, when working on counting dimes, you would highlight the numbers 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and so on up to 100 and have students place a dime on each highlighted number.

Once your students have practiced counting individual types of coins, have them practice counting money using several types of coin. For example, when you say, ''Count out 57 cents,'' students should count two quarters, a nickel, and two pennies.

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