Teaching children about math and money
My daughter is five years old, hasn’t started kindergarten yet, and, though she’s learned some basic preschool math, she really has no concept of money yet. For instance: She had a particular dolly that she really, really, wanted. We counted up the money she had earned for chores so far. She had about $4. Then, we looked up the doll on Amazon. It cost $14.
“Okay, Mommy! I’m going to do tons and tons of chores. I’ll wash the dishes every day so I can get that dolly!”
She helped with the dishes one time, earned $.25, and asked, “Now do I have enough?”
“Bunny, the dolly is $14. You now have $4.25. No, it’s not enough. However, if you clean up the living room, I’ll give you $.50 and you’ll have almost $5.00! Then, you’ll only have about $9 left!”
She responded with a groan as she slumped down in her chair and decided it wasn’t worth her while. Frankly, she just didn’t really understand why there were still nine dollars left to earn and how doing the dishes hadn’t gotten her that far. She just has no concept of numbers yet—especially money.
So, I made a graph. I put 15 empty squares next to a picture of the doll that she could color. I blacked out one square, which left 14 squares for her to use. I put it on the wall and told her to color four of the squares. Then, I divided one square into four parts and told her that each part equals one quarter, and she was able to color one of the little squares.
Suddenly the money she was working so hard to earn made so much more sense to her! She was more motivated to do her chores and eager to be able to color in the squares when she was done. A really big chore like cleaning her messy room earned her $1.00. That was easy to understand now because $1.00 meant one square! She was finally understanding the math behind our system and this was math that was very relevant to her!
The whole experience took doing chores for money to a whole new level. Up until this point she had no idea of how far she’d come or how much longer she had to wait until the item for which she was working so hard became hers. This had lead to a lot of discouragement and frustration because when I said, “Bunny, do you want to clean your room so you can earn your dolly?” she heard, “When you finish cleaning your room we will go buy the dolly at once.” Now, she understood much better the slow steps taken with each chore towards getting the dolly.
Bunny started earning her money when she was about two and a half years old.
Back then she’d do a chore and I’d give her a couple of coins to jingle in her bank and there was very little rhyme or reason to it. Over the years it has morphed and improved until we are finally at this place where both parties understand the terms of the agreement. She’s in a place where she feels more control. I’m happy, she’s happy, and she’s not only learning math and fractions, but she’s continuing to learn the hard work involved in earning each and every dollar.
Have you found any fun ways to incorporate math, money and rewards into your preschoolers life? What has or hasn't worked for you?