Teaching Money – Some Ideas

When I was making out long-term plans at the start of the year, I gave myself two weeks to cover money, thinking there would be loads to learn and lots of fun activities to try. A little closer to the time (i.e. the Sunday night before!), I realised there was only one thing in the curriculum for fifth class was ‘compare ‘value for money’ using unitary method’, that all the resources online were either in pounds or dollars, and that the chapter in the book was shockingly boring.

Somehow or another, I made it through to the end of the two weeks, but as is the general theme of this whole site, I’m writing this post to help out someone else who might be stuck in the same boat. These are some of the activities I came up!

Boom Cards

A little more interactive than just giving the kids problems to complete in their copies. I used these to introduce ‘unitary method’ (e.g. if 3 bananas are €2.10, how much does one cost?) and got the kids to complete them in pairs with mini-whiteboards. Here’s the link to the cards – they’re free but you need to create an account!

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‘Grab the Change’

I used some fake notes and coins that I got in Mr. Price for this one, but you could just bring in a big jar of change. Put the kids in groups of four or five, and call out maths problems orally, e.g. ‘I had €10 and spent half of it, then spent another €2.80. What was my change?’ Kids have five seconds to grab the right change and show it you, or someone in the group who acts as score-keeper. Limit the amount of coins you give each group to make this a lesson to remember! You can make the questions harder by adding in discounts and multipack items.

Target Boards

I love using these to revise a mixture of decimal addition and subtraction, orders of operation, word problems etc. There are two levels which let you easily differentiate for kids (make them successfully complete Level 1 before moving on to Level 2!) and you can even get them to make up their own boards if they finish early. You can grab these over on my Mash store at this link.

Come Dine With Me

You’ll need a whole load of weekly Lidl/Centra brochures for this one. Put the kids in groups of two or three and have them come up with a three-course menu for four people, with a budget of €25 (for example). It was really interesting to see how different groups went about this – just make sure you ban the calculators so they have to do the work! I got groups to rate one another’s menus in a ‘Come Dine With Me’ activity afterwards.

Using Receipts

You’ll need to gather some receipts for this one (Twinkl have some decent fake ones too!). Photocopy the receipts and ask the kids to add up much was spent on vegetables, meat, a particular product etc. You could ‘black out’ some of the prices and give them clues on how to fill them in, calculate the total amount spent in a week, or even use the receipts to fill in a simple ‘Income & Expenditure’ account. I’m working on making a resource for this idea, so stay tuned!

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Averages is a completely new topic for fifth class, so most of the kids have no idea what you’re talking about!

Getting Started:

The very first thing I did was to ask the kids to explain what the word ‘average’ meant, then give them sentences with the word ‘average’ in it, because they’ve probably heard it in context before and might be able to work out what it means.

e.g. The average temperature this month was 25 degrees // The average test score in the class was 8/10 // Would you want to be told you were ‘average’ at your favourite sport? etc.

Physical Examples:

  • Line up the kids stand in a line from shortest to tallest, and explain that the middle child is around the ‘average’ height for the class.
  • Repeat with number of sports they play, number of countries they have visited, etc.
  • Call up five children and give them ten cubes. Ask them to stack any number between 1-10, then line them up lowest to highest, and ask the children what the average looks like.


Show the kids one stack of 9 cubes, one of 5 cubes, and one of 7 cubes. Ask them what the average is. Explain that we can find the average by adding all the numbers (stack the cubes) and making equal piles (one for Pile 1, one for Pile 2, etc). Is there a quicker way? We could have divided by the number of piles, i.e. 21 divided by 3 = 7.

Maths Fact: The average of x amount of numbers can be found by adding up all of the numbers, and divided the total by x.

We did a number of examples of these on mini-whiteboards, then from the book as homework.

‘Missing Number’

e.g. The average of three numbers is 6. Two of the numbers are 9 and 4. What is the missing number?

This one caused quite a bit of hassle! The kids were all able to find the average of x amount of numbers, but when you introduce a ‘missing number’, it really tests whether they understand the concept or have just memorized what to do! They’ll write things like 9 + 3 = 12, 12 – 6 = 6, or even 9 + 3 = 12, 12 divided by 3 = 4.

I put the kids in groups of two or three, and gave each group a bag of matchsticks. I asked them to take 28 sticks, and make four groups, putting however many they wanted into each group. Then I wrote up on the whiteboard all of the different combinations – 10, 3, 7, 8 // 12, 10, 4, 2 etc. Each group then told me their average – 7 sticks. I drew four boxes with 7 sticks on the board, and drew out one of the previous examples above it, this time with a number missing (see the picture below). This helped the kids to visualise the total number of sticks, and therefore the missing number.

The rule we came up with was ‘if there’s a missing number, you have been told the total. Use it!’

Dividing with Decimals.

One further complication with averages is division with a decimal, e.g. what is the average of 3, 4 and 5?  This requires quite a bit of practice – I like to get the stronger kids up to the board to do the sums so the kids aren’t listening to me the whole time!

To make this a bit more interesting, I brought the kids outside and measured how many centimetres each person could jump from a standing position. The kids kept track of the scores and calculated the average for the class!

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