Grade K-2

On The Money

Updated: July 22 2015,

In this lesson, students explore what money is and how it differs around the world. They will compare U.S. currency with play money and with foreign currency. They will then use their knowledge to design their own money.


In this lesson, students will explore what money is and how it differs around the world. They will compare U.S. currency with play money and with money around the world. They will then use their knowledge to design their own money. Visit Bureau of Engraving and Printing for background information about U.S. money and to find the answers to questions that come up during the lesson.

Learning Objectives

  • To explain why some things are real money and some things aren’t.
  • To recognize that different countries print different money.
  • To design and create their own currency.

Resource List



  1. Visit the website Coin Pictures from Around the World , and look at various pictures of coins from around the world. Ask students what they are looking at. How do they know it is money? Is it real money? Ask students to name a coin that we use today in our country.
  2. Give each student a nickel, dime, penny, or quarter. Have students compare their coin with a coin on the website. How are they alike? [round, have pictures, made of metal] How are they different? [the words are different, the pictures are different] As a class, create a VENN DIAGRAM showing the similarities and differences.
  3. How do we know something is money? Is all money round? [show students a dollar bill if they answer yes] Is all money silver? Explain that students will be learning about money and will be able to explain what makes something money by the end of the lesson.
  4. Visit the website Toy Money of American Children . Have students compare their coin with a coin found on this website. How are they alike? How are they different? Create a VENN DIAGRAM. Are the coins on the website money? Why or why not?
  5. Hand a student some Monopoly or other play money and ask if they would sell you their lunch for it. Why not? Explain that the coins on the website they just saw are play money, not real money.
  6. What makes the play money different from the real money they saw at the first website or the money they are holding in their hands? Brainstorm ideas. Explain that the difference is that real money is widely accepted as money. Everyone agrees to use it as money. Play money is not widely accepted as money, and most people wouldn't sell you something in exchange for it.
  7. Visit the, then click on the country whose currency you wish to see. Explain that different countries print different currency. To buy something in a country, you need too have that country's currency. Have each student explore the currency from at least three countries. Compare one example to an American ten dollar bill as seen at the web site U.S. Treasury Small Denominations . How is it different from American money? What do they like about it?
  8. Take a closer look at the American ten dollar bill. Examine the different parts such as the portrait, signatures, legal tender wording, value, and decorations. Visit this website and click on the Interactive Note link.
  9. Have each student create their own currency using paper and art supplies or a draw program on their computer. Encourage them to include some of the features they saw on the American ten dollar bill and on the currency they viewed from other countries. How will they make sure that no one can easily copy their currency?


  1. Ask students if they could use the money they designed to buy things in a grocery store. Why not?
  2. Ask students which currency that they have seen is their favorite. Why?
  3. Ask students where they have seen play money, ie. Games, fast food restaurant. Could they use this money to buy a toy? Why not?
  4. Could you buy a toy in France with American Dollars? Why not?

Extension Activity

  1. Let students play some of the games here.
  2. Ask students to bring in any money they or their parents might have from another country for show and tell. Where did it come from? What features make it special?
  3. Have students carve into a potato, dip the potato in paint, and press it onto paper repeatedly to make prints. Explain that this is similar to the way paper money is printed. Why is this a better way to make money than drawing each bill by hand? [faster, cheaper, more uniform, harder to counterfeit]


  1. Ask students to draw a picture, write or verbally explain what money is.
  2. Ask them to explain the difference between real and play money by drawing a picture, writing, verbally explaining, or acting it out.