At one time I worked as a helper in a second-grade class. Miss Todd was a master teacher and had such a fabulous way with her class! They absolutely adored her. Oh how I’d like to have bottled up her methods and saved them! Each day she would explain a math concept and then have her students practice in pairs with a game or activity. She passed out “kits” for hands-on practice time that might have contained a small blob of dough, dice, geometrically shaped objects, or any number of other things. The activities were simple, but fun. She explained the rules concisely and would have the children wait until she gave the cue, then gave them a precise amount of time to “play”–usually only 2 or 3 minutes. Then they cleaned up and passed the kit back in to her. It was always so neat and effective! I asked her about her activities one day, and Miss Todd showed me her secret–a little book of math games. I wish I had paid more attention to that book.
I adapted one of her games for my students and it has been a favorite ever since. They call it “The Piggy Game” but I think the original name was “Race to a Dollar.” It may be played by two or more players, or children in teams, depending on their ability. All you need to play is one die and some coins of real or play money (at least five pennies, three nickels, three dimes, and four quarters for each player.)
The object of the game is to be the first player to get four quarters (one dollar) in your piggy bank. The game always ends in four quarters because of the rule to “trade up” to the smallest number of coins possible (five pennies trade for a nickel, two nickels for a dime, three dimes for a quarter and a nickel, etc.) I’ve never used half dollar coins.
To play: (1) Roll the die, (2) Collect the coin(s) earned, (3)”Trade up,” and (4) Count the total amount of money received. I try to monitor that they follow all the steps before passing the die on to the next player, at least until I see they can do them independently. The winner is the first to have one dollar on their game board piggy bank.
The number rolled on the die determines the coins won for that round: 1=5¢,2=7¢, 3=10¢, 4=13¢, 5=25¢, 6=bankrupt (losing all your coins and starting over). Depending on the ability and interest of the players, you may exercise the option of a “roll again” instead of bankruptcy in case of rolling a 6.
Let’s face it, kids all love jingling coins in their hands and counting money is fun, but especially so when winning is on the line!