Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Making Change

Pamela Williams
Santa Rosa District Schools


Students learn how to incorporate a new type of technology, the cash register and/or a calculator, as a motivational tool for solving real life problems. Students practice estimating money and counting back change from $20.00.


The student reads and organizes information for a variety of purposes, including making a report, conducting interviews, taking a test, and performing an authentic task.

The student adds, subtracts, and multiplies whole numbers, decimals, and fractions, including mixed numbers, and divides whole numbers to solve real-world problems, using appropriate methods of computing, such as mental mathematics, paper and pencil, and calculator.

The student solves real-world problems involving estimates of measurements, including length, time, weight, temperature, money, perimeter, area, and volume.


-Cash register (could be purchased with grant funds such as school-to-work) or a toy cash-register with a calculator could be substituted.
-Cash register tape
-Play money (bills & coins)
-Items to purchase (pre-priced)
-Money holders for shoppers
-Overhead projector
-Transparency pens
-Transparency of menu & worksheets
-Transparency money (coins & bills)
-Making change worksheets & menu (see attached file for samples)
-Big Book Page Maker (optional): This copies the original worksheet similar to a copy machine, but it uses poster-size paper. If you choose to enlarge the worksheets, but do not have access to a Big Book Page Maker, a regular copy machine will enlarge it to a legal-sized sheet of paper.
-Math Journals


1. Create money word problems worksheets, one for practice and one for assessment (see attached file).
2. Make a transparency of the worksheet with problems and of the menu and/or make a poster-size copy of each on a Big Book Page Maker. (The poster size is a great visual in addition to the transparency, but it is optional.)
3. Set up a table with pre-priced items to purchase.
4. Place money in money holders.
5. Provide play money for each pair of students to use for worksheet.
6. Prepare overhead projector with transparency money.
7. Prepare cash register with play money and tape.


This is a great lesson to use after students have mastered the concept of using the least amount of coins and recognizing the various ways coins can be made to equal $1.00.

1. Provide whole group instruction for money word problems which involve counting back change to $20.00. Using the overhead projector and transparency money, work the problems with the students step-by-step. This includes reading the problems together, estimating the cost of some items purchased to the nearest dollar or dime, then using the transparency money to count the change back to $20.00. Provide examples of counting change back using the least amount of coins and bills. Help students understand why it is beneficial to use the least amount of coins and bills when counting back change. Next, instruct students to create at least two new problems in their math journals to solve with their partner. That would be a total of four problems for each pair of students.

2. At this time, select two pairs of students and give one pair (shoppers) money holders with $20.00 and send them to the -items to be purchased table.- They will choose two or three items, estimating the cost so they won't go over $20.00. Work with the other pair of students on the cash register. Show them how to open, close, and total items purchased and how money should be placed in the drawer. (A volunteer or paraprofessional would be very helpful in assisting the shoppers and other students at this time. Also, students who have learned the procedure can train other students to use the cash register and count back change.)

3. Shoppers bring their items to be purchased to the cashier. The cashier will total the items for each shopper, take their money, and then count back their change.

4. Shoppers and cashiers will then switch places and the procedure will be repeated.

5. When all students have had the opportunity to participate, debrief the lesson by reviewing what was learned, using whole-class discussion format.


1. Observe for:
(a) estimating money to the nearest dime or dollar,
(b) counting change back to $20.00 correctly using the least amount of coins and bills possible,
(c) operating cash register and/or calculator correctly, and
(d) working cooperatively.

2. Assess the correctness of the completed assessment worksheet showing students:
(a) located and used the correct information from the menu to solve the problems,
(b) estimated some items to the nearest dollar or dime correctly, when asked to do so, and
(c) calculations made show the correct amount of change to be given back.
(See attached file.)

Example: Cameron ordered a Superdog. He gave the cashier $20.00. How much change will he receive? To solve the problem, the student must look on the menu and locate the Superdog priced at $3.99. The student then solves the problem and counts Cameron's change back to $20.00. His change would be 1 penny, 1 dollar, 1 five, and 1 ten or 1 penny, 1 dollar, and 3 fives.

A fill-in-the-blank answer could also be used. Example:
___ penny(ies) = $4.00
___ dollar(s) = $5.00
___ five(s) = $10.00
___ ten(s) = $20.00, etc.

3. New problems created by students in Math Journals using available menu for their partners to solve: Check for accuracy of information used as well as the solution.

Note: Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly.


Students that have solved their word problems and are waiting to shop or run the register may...
1. Create an informative sale brochure using colorful adjectives for one of the items that is to be placed on the -items for purchase table.-
2. Create a radio commercial for one or two items on the Food Lover's Delight menu (see attached file).
~Descriptions must be vivid enough for others to visualize when listening to the radio commercial.
3. Tutor other students that need help with locating information, rounding to the nearest dime or dollar, counting back change or creating new problems to be solved.
4. Work at other learning centers.
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