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Ministry of Education.

Money matters

Adapted from NZ Maths unit Money Matters

Adaptions for ESOL students: Pat Boyle


Year: 5-7

Level: 3

Duration: 1 week

Achievement objectives

Number, Level 3

  1. Explain the meaning of the digits in any whole numbers.

Learning outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • create groupings of tens, hundreds, thousands using play money and place value mats
  • carry out "fair trades" involving 2- and 3- digit amounts of money (and eventually 4-, 5- and 6- digit amounts of money)
  • efficiently carry out mental additions involving paper money problems
  • round off numbers to the nearest ten/hundred
  • be able to make sensible estimates for sums that are greater than / less than $10, $100, $1000
  • read and explain the meaning of large numbers with confidence
  • begin to explore powers of ten.

Language learning focus

Focus on building vocabulary and mathematical literacy

 Students will:

  • learn key vocabulary
  • develop student understanding of digits in whole numbers and our place value system, through teacher-led discussion and through gaining confidence with the appropriate language
  • learn and practise language structures used in talking about these mathematical concepts.

How to achieve the language learning outcomes:

  • focus on KeyWords (Word 37KB) , model and practise use, and check understanding
  • model the new language, check understanding, and give prompts and practice to assist students in using correct oral mathematical language structures and vocabulary.

Teacher background reading

Overview of the unit

In this unit, students will explore Number concepts through the real world Measurement context of Money. A variety of money contexts will be explored using paper play money, at first trading only $1, $10, and $100 notes, and eventually extending the trades and operations into using thousands, millions and billions of dollars.

Students will be involved in making fair trades and exchanges of their money in order to have practical experiences with the essential "rules" of our place value system. Namely, that any ten of one denomination is equal to one of the next higher order (that is, 10 ones = 1 ten, 10 tens = 1 hundred, 10 hundreds = 1 thousand and so on). The money context, with real world problems, will be used to enable students to make sense of, and to "unlock", the keys to the language, patterns and rules of our place value system. By exploring large numbers through the concrete material of play money, students will gain confidence decoding and reading multi-digit numbers involving, ones, tens, hundreds and eventually, thousands, millions, billions, trillions etc.

A description of the mathematics explored in the unit

In this unit students will explore the meaning of digits in whole numbers as well as developing deeper understandings about our place value system within the context of money problems.

The focus of the Number learning will be on developing better understandings about the fundamentals of our place value system, namely that:

  • Our whole number system involves groupings in tens and trading collections of ten. (Powers of ten are therefore an important concept for learners to develop).
  • The same digits are used in different positions for different values. (This is often referred to as the distinction between the "face" of a number, the "place" of a number and the " total value" of a number.)
  • Our system is called a base ten place value system. (Which is reflected in the name decimal where "deci" means based on ten.)
  • There are only ten digits (0 - 9) that we use in our system but there an endless number of values that can be given to these digits - tens, hundreds, thousands - depending on their placement.
  • Understanding the role of zero is critical as it serves as an important place holder in our place value system.

These concepts will be developed as learners participate in many trades involving play money. They will use the play money in conjunction with place value house mats upon which they will place the money. It is important to note that students will use play money that only involves powers of ten - $1, $10, $100, $1000, $10000 (no $2, $5, $20, $50 notes will be used in this series of lessons). Learners will develop their ability to read amounts of money in story problems and flyers. Most tasks will emphasise the use of flexible mental thinking strategies rather than recording answers on paper. Grouping, rounding and using compatible number combinations will be encouraged through the emphasis on the numbers that "go together" to make 10, make 100, make 1 000.

As students develop further confidence with making equitable trades involving ones, tens and hundreds, they will be encouraged to solve problems where they need to estimate, round off and carry out addition and subtraction to solve money tasks. The emphasis is on students using their knowledge of groupings of tens to help them round off and estimate amounts that are more than / less than $10, $100, $1 000.

Teaching sequence

Learning task 1

Learning task 2

Learning task 3

Figure It Out links

Some links from the Figure It Out series which you may find useful are:

  • Level 3, Number, Time for Change, p. 20.
  • Level 3, Number, Book Three, Banking Issues, p. 3.
  • Level 3-4, Number, Money Everywhere, page 1.
  • Level 3-4, Number, Places to Go, p. 2.
  • Level 3-4, Number, Changes, Highs and Lows, p. 6.
  • Link, Number, Book Two, A Million Grains of Rice, p. 4.

The following books contain activities to help students investigate and evaluate financial decisions. Some of these involve operating with number.

  • Financial Literacy, The Real Cost of Pets, Levels 2-3
  • Financial Literacy, Saving for a Holiday, Level 3
  • Financial Literacy, Granny’s Gift, Levels 3-4


  • Play money masters for $1, $10, $100
  • 'Ten holders', dozen egg cartons with 2 cups removed
  • Plastic baggies or envelopes to create pay packets
  • Advertising circulars for sports gear / items for sale
  • Base 10 / Multi-base / Place value blocks (cubes, longs, flats, large cubes)
  • Material masters
     - Place Value House masters
     - Number line from 1 - 100
     - Hundred Charts

Published on: 09 Jan 2018