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Teaching Dollars and Coins to English Learners

By KellenKautzman

In this ESL lesson plan your students will learn the amount that each coin is worth and play fun games with their classmates. Help ESL students grasp the value of money and become familiar with American currency.

Money Basics

Dollars And Coins 

Begin by bringing pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollar coins to class. You will then give your students a pre-test to see what they already know about money value in English. Give each student a bag of coins--plastic coins are preferable--and say an amount of money. Watch as each student attempts to make the correct amount on their desk. Increase the difficulty until you have a good understanding of who knows their coin values and who does not. If you have any students who already understand the concept you can have them take the assessment right away and have them move on to another topic, or advanced coin counting lesson.

For the rest of your students, tell them all to put their coins back in the bag. Pass out stacking cubes, or beans, or any other small manipulative to each student for the following exercise. They will need at least 25. Write, or project, the value of coins onto the board.

Penny = 1¢

Nickel = 5¢

Dime = 10¢

Quarter = 25¢

If your students are struggling with counting, consider the following ESL counting lesson plan. It complements these ESL lesson plans on value of money and coins.


Instruct your students to place the an equal amount of manipulatives onto their desk for the coin you call out. You say, “Penny” and each student would put one manipulative onto their desk. Repeat this same process for nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Then begin to add two figures together. Start with the problem “one penny + one nickel = ”. Continue this process with the ESL basic coins worksheet.

The first three example problems are given below.

1. Penny + Nickel =

2. Nickel + Penny =

3. Dime + Penny =

Games - Quiz

Once your students have finished the ESL basic coins worksheet have them stand up and form two lines facing one another. Have them quiz one another from their sheet. The student asking the question may look at the worksheet. The students answering the questions may not. When they have finished, have your students return to their desks and grab two coins from their bags. Have them put those coins in their hand and then have them stand again. Tell them to make sure they know how many cents they have in their hands. Have them whisper the amount in your ear to make sure they are right.

Instruct them to find someone else in the room to figure out how many coins that person has in their hand. Students should move from one student to another counting each other’s coins to add up the coins. When they are finished, have them answer the following questions in their notebook.

Who had the most coins?

What coins did he/she have?

Who had the fewest coins?

What coins did he/she have?

For more ESL lesson plans see the links below.