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Grade K-2, 3-5

No Funny Money, Honey….I Want the Real Thing!

Updated: October 16 2017,
Author: Mickey Ebert

Do you know what funny money is? It’s NOT the real thing! Find out how our government tries to make our money hard to copy in this lesson about real and fake money.


billsAsk the students why a $10 bill is worth 10 dollars. The paper used to make the bill is not worth 10 dollars. Start a discussion about what it would be like to live in a world without money. What makes money a good way to buy things? How does currency make our life simpler?

The students will go to various sites provided by the New Money website and the teacher should review information given in the New Money- About the Redesigned $5 Bill link, as well as the other resources listed, to learn about U.S. currency and how to spot 'funny money'. After the students learn about how we keep our money safe, they will play the game and (in the extension activity) take a quiz at  New Money- Educational Games & Resources .

Learning Objectives

  • Name the security features that make the United States money unique.
  • Discover the limitations of bartering.
  • Identify how U.S. Currency looks today.
  • Design their own, personal bill.
  • Pick out the characteristics of money in a drag and drop activity.
  • Understand what changes have been made to U.S. currency to avoid counterfeiting.
  • Answer questions regarding current U.S. currency.

Resource List

  • New Money Homepage: Contains additional links and resources for the teacher to access regarding currency and counterfeiting. Most links provided in this lesson come from this website.
  • New Money- About the Redesigned $5 Bill: The redesigned $5 bills, which entered circulation on March 13, 2008, are safer, smarter and more secure: safer because they're harder to fake and easier to check; smarter to stay ahead of savvy counterfeiters; and more secure to protect the integrity of U.S. currency. Because security features are difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce well, they often do not try, hoping that cash handlers and the public will not check their money.
  • New Money- Educational Games & Resources: The U.S. government has developed the following educational tools to enhance the public's knowledge of redesigned U.S. currency.
  • Bureau of Engraving and Printing: Provides facts about U.S. Currency.
  • The History of U.S. Currency: The site gives a dated of history of how U.S. currency, starting with the beginning of paper bills in the U.S. in 1690.
  • New Money- The Redesigned $10 Note: Offers an in-depth look at the new $10 bill.
  • New Money- $5 Note: Offers an in-depth look at the new $5 bill.
  • New Money- $20 dollar bill: Offers an in-depth look at the new $20 Note.
  • Currency Quiz: This ten-question quiz provided by (Holly Hartman) assesses the students understanding of information within this lesson and the links provided.
  • Design Your Own Bill: This interactive game will allow the students to design a bill by modifying the features and colors of what appears on their own personal currency.
  • Aristotle's Choice of Money Revisited: The site is a reference for the teacher when teaching the concepts presented in the conclusion.
  • Drag and Drop Activity: This Venn diagram will assess the student's understanding of concepts of durability, divisibility, and portability and how it applies to currency and products today.
    Drag and Drop Activity
  • The New Color of Money: Designed for cash handler, law enforcement, and financial institution training, the video includes a graphic tutorial on the security and design features of the $10, $20 and $50 bills.
  • New Money- Materials to Download: A variety of free education and training materials are available for download for all redesigned U.S. currency denominations.


[Note: This lesson stresses coins and currency, but does not deal with checking deposits. Tell the students that coins and currency are only part of our money supply. Checks are part of the money supply, too. This lesson is only going to deal with coins and currency. Checks are not created by the U.S. Treasury. Also, some activities within this lesson may only be appropriate for grades 3-5, dependent on student comprehension and skill set.]

money bagsWrite the word barter on the board and discuss its meaning. Explain to the students that to barter, or bartering, is the direct exchange of goods and services between people without the use of money. Money makes trading easier because it has four characteristics.

  1. Money is portable. That means it is easy to carry. Would gold be easy to carry? [Only in small amounts; gold is heavy.] Would salt be easy to carry? [No. You'd have to bag it or it would run through your fingers.]
  2. Money is divisible. That means it is easy to divide. Ten dollars is worth 10 one-dollar bills. If something costs 7 dollars, we do not have to split or cut actual bills apart to come up with the amount needed.
  3. Money is durable. That means it is long lasting. Our bills are not easy to tear and they are not printed with ink that runs. Our bills can even make it through the wash cycle of our washing machines!
  4. It is generally accepted. That means a dollar bill can buy gum in Atlanta, in St. Louis, or Los Angeles.

Why should money be hard to obtain? Why should our money be hard to counterfeit? Scarcity of money is the reason it is valuable. If money was like sand, and there was plenty of it, how valuable would it be? Things are scarce when you cannot have as much of them as you want. Money sure fits that definition!

Some people counterfeit money. They make money, but not in the legal way! It is illegal to manufacture money because money would not be scarce if people everywhere could make their own. To find out more about our currency, have the students visit the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and The History of U.S. Currency to find out more information about how the U.S. currency came to be.

Ask the students, Do you know what a $10 bill should look like? Have them visit The Redesigned $10 Note and find out!…How about the $5 Note or the $20 dollar bill ?

The students can also visit The New $10 Bill for an interactive visual at the "Safe. Smart. More Secure" look of the $10, as well as the $5, $20, $50, and $100.

Next, have the students take a Mulitple Choice Quiz to find out how much money knowledge they have.

After the Mulitple Choice Quiz, have the students go to Design Your Own Bill to make a personalized bill that allows the student to change the features and colors of their currency.


givingAs the teacher, review Aristotle's Choice of Money Revisited . After reading about the features that money should have, open up the Drag And Drop Activity below and apply this information to the interactive Venn Diagram. Explain the concepts of durability, divisibility, and portability and how it applies to currency and products today.

Do the students know about the characteristics of money — what each concept is and what items would cover which characteristics? Check their understanding by using the Drag and Drop Activity.

Extension Activity

The New Color of Money video outlines the changes that have been made to U.S. dollars, in particularly the $10 bill, and what has been done to prevent the counterfeiting of money.

Note: The related resources found on the New Money- Materials to Download page are not necessarily useful for the age group targeted by this lesson but are a great reference and provide additional information and activities for the teacher.

After the students have reviewed all of the information in this lesson and this section, have them take the Interactive Video Quiz located on the New Money website. Students will need to click on "Take the Quiz" to begin.


Students will play the Drag and Drop Activity  (in the conclusion) and complete the activities provided by New Money- Educational Games & Resources in the process and extension activity.