Empowering Parents to Teach- Counting Money

Counting Money for Beginners

My preschooler received some Easter money from his grandmother ($5) and found some hidden inside of an Easter egg ($2).  Since we were headed off to Target, he really wanted to bring his money to buy a Skylander.  I told him that they cost ten dollars or fifteen dollars.  He had to count his money to see if he had enough to purchase one.


Young ones usually count the number of bills. For example, he had a five dollar bill and two one dollar bills.  Most of the time, kids that young will count the three bills and say they have three dollars. Ideally, if I had five one dollar bills I could show him that the five one dollar bills was the same as one five dollar bill.  But I didn’t have enough bills for that.  Math bears came to our rescue again!


Here’s how I would show a young one how to add bills of different denominations using readily available materials:


Step 1:

Place the bills largest to smallest in a line.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Counting Money

Step 2:

Have the child read the number on the first bill. Take out the corresponding number of math bears, i.e. five math bears for a five dollar bill.  Teaching Tip:  This gives the child a visual, concrete representation of the number on the bill.

Empowering Parents to Teach- Counting Money


Step 3:

Repeat the process of corresponding the math bears to the number on the bills.



Empowering Parents to Teach- Counting Money


Empowering Parents to Teach- Counting Money


Step 3:

Have the child count  all the math bears together.   Teaching Tip: Have the child start on the left hand side to count.  Just like reading, we typically solve math problems left to right.  It’s never too early to establish good habits!


Empowering Parents to Teach- Counting Money



In our case, we were not done yet.  Remember, he was counting for a purpose.  He needed to see if he had enough money to purchase a Skylander.  I asked my little guy if seven dollars was more or less than ten dollars.  He said, “Less” and immediately started to throw a tantrum because he realized he didn’t have enough money.


Once he calmed down I asked him an extension question, “If you have $7, how many more dollars do you need to make $10?” He responded, “$3″.  He can mentally figure out what numbers add up to ten so I did not need to use the math bears to help him solve this. But, if he needed help, I could have put out seven math bears and we could count together how many bears we added to make ten.


Older brother came to this rescue and gave his brother his Easter money- $5. It was super sweet.  We counted the money once again and he now had enough money for his new toy!


I love when math can be taught in context for a real purpose!  Next time your preschooler or kindergartener wants to buy something, teach him or her how to count money!  Evaluate at the end if they have enough for their purchase.  :)



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Montessori Monday

Empowering Parents To Teach- More or Less Game

Comparing Numbers With Math Bears

Comparing Number Quantities- More or Less


One of the earliest math skills children learn is the concept of more or less.  We know easily (as adults) that five is more than three, but to young ones this takes hands on experience with objects to gain this understanding.  I’ll show you one way to gain that experience through a fun game. My three year old LOVES this game! I made it up for him after he watched me and his brother play the card game, War.


More or Less game


  • Math Bears
  • Playing Cards



  • Take out any cards that are not numbers, such as the Joker,  Ace,  King,  Queen,  Jack, you only need the number cards.
  • Put the cards face down in one big pile


How to play:

1. Each player takes a card from the top of the pile and places it in front of him or herself with the number facing up.

Empowering Parents To Teach- game







2. Each player takes out the corresponding number of math bears and lines them up next to his or her card. I would do this in turns. Have the child or parent go first, then switch. That way, the child sees both numbers being constructed.


Empowering Parents To Teach-  More or Less Game







3. The child may be able to visually see that one number quantity is bigger than the other. If not, try lining them up closer to each other and matching them one to one, like this:


Empowering Parents To Teach- More or Less









4. Have the child compare which line is longer.  Remember, this only works if you line them up one to one.  Ask the child if they have more or less than you.  If the child has more, he or she wins.  If they have less, you win.


5. What if you both have the same quantity? Teach your child the term “equal”. You both have an equal number of bears.  You both win!


6. Repeat as many times as your child wants.


Teaching Tip: To extend this as your child advances with the skill, you can have your child compare how much larger a number is.  For example, using this method the child can see that five bears is bigger than three bears by two bears. 


This game is very simple, but lots of fun!  I made it up on the spot, which is why I love having my math bears handy.  You never know when they may be needed!

Empowering Parents To Teach: Adding with math bears

Adding with Math Bears

Making Math Hands On: Adding With Math Bears


Once your child has developed one to one correspondence, he or she can begin to understand addition.  There are many ways to incorporate adding into your day.  When you are playing with cars, for example, count how many cars you have.  Ask your child, “How many cars would you have if I added two more?”  Add two more cars and count them all together.  This is how I introduce the concept of adding, in the context of play with real objects.


After the child seems comfortable with the concept, I would add the number representation of the problem along with the manipulatives.   Eventually, after a lot of practice, the child can add without the aid of objects.  But there is no rush!  You want your child to add in a hands-on fashion enough times so that he or she can form mental representations in their minds.  Until then, they need the physical representation of the problem. This takes time and practice and it is very necessary.


How to show the physical representation of an addition problem:


The set up:

  • Tray
  • Math bears on the right side
  • Foam numbers 0-9 on top
  • A couple of addition problems (based on child’s level) on the left


Empowering Parents To Teach: Hands on adding with math bears


Empowering Parents to Teach: Numbers

Numbers 0-9


Step 1:  Draw a card with an addition problem.


Step 2:  Have the child put the corresponding number of bears for the top number and the bottom number. These two numbers are called addends.


Empowering Parents To Teach: Adding with math bears

Step 3:  Explain that the (+) plus sign tells us that we are to count the bears all together.  So if we have one bear and we add five more bears, how many do we have all together?  The child may begin to count all the bears.  If not, show the child how to count them all together.  Sometimes moving them together helps:

Empowering Parents to Teach: Adding with math bears

Putting them all together


I put them all together under the equal sign so that the child gets a visual image of where the answer goes.


Step 4:  Have the child find the number that corresponds to the quantity.

Empowering Parents To Teach: Adding math bears



Teaching Tip:  As your child learns the concept of addition, he or she is also learning math vocabulary.  Words like, “plus”, “all together”, “equals”, “sum”, and “addend” are great words to include in your explanation.


The more hands on practice your child has with the concept the better!  Often times, we jump too fast into paper and pencil before the child was able to form a solid foundation of the concept.  If your child comes home with addition homework and needs your help- break out the math bears!


Linked to: Montessori Monday on Living Montessori Now




Empowering Parents to Teach: Math Manipulatives

Math Manipulatives Must Haves

There are two items I always have around to help teach math- math bears and linking cubes. If I am tutoring, helping with my son’s homework, or trying to answer my preschooler’s math question, these two tools come in very handy!


Math is best learned in a hands on way. These two items allow me to do that by creating a physical representation of a math problem or concept. The best part is I can use them for so many things, I don’t have to buy a ton of different materials!


For older kids, there are a couple more items I like to keep around for more advanced concepts. I will share those in another post. You’d be surprised how much learning you can foster with just these two! If you are preparing your environment for teaching math, these are both great to have.



Math Bears

Empowering Parents to Teach: Math Manipulatives



Linking Cubes


Empowering Parents to Teach: Math Manipulatives


Both can be used for:



To order these on Amazon:

*These are affiliate links which means if you make a purchase from the links below, I receive a very small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you.

Baby Bear Counters (102 ct.)

MathLink Cubes (Set of 100)

Snap Cubes Set Of 100 (Sorry, no picture)