I'm a third grade teacher and one of the first things in our textbook is making change. The two big ways I know of are basic subtraction and counting up. I'm not a big fan of counting up, as I feel that subtracting is more of a useful skill. That's not to say I won't teach both though, because some kids may find counting up easier. Anyway we spent some time subtracting two digit numbers where regrouping was involved. They got that just fine. I then moved to three digit number where regrouping was involved in the tens and ones columns. That really threw them, and obviously if they can't do it with regular numbers then they won't be able to with money. We also tried counting up today and that also went over their heads. I even had each child using play money to figure it out. I think maybe a handful at most understood! Are there any tricks out there that any of you use to teach your kids to make change? I'm really struggling with helping my kids understand this and I don't want to frustrate them.

When I did my practicum in a fourth and sixth grade special ed room (there were no fifth graders, weird) we borrowed a toy cash register from the kindergarten room and played store. Even though it was a bit babyish for some of them, it helped them get into the actual mindset of being at the store. Maybe you can try that or have each student act it out? Otherwise, I'd say just teach them one way and stick to it! I used to get confused when my teachers shwoed me all these different ways! JMO

S. Dubb, In third grade, student should be able to use both the subtraction method and the counting up method to make change for $10 or less. Both are useful, for solving a problem, and for checking an answer. What specifically is the problem? Is it the double zeros? (That is the usual problem with making change in 3rd grade.) If it is, teach them "The Amazing Penny Trick." The Amazing Penny Trick Any time you are subtracting from double zeros ($3.00 - 1.86) simply subtract a penny from both numbers. So it becomes $2.99 - 1.85 and viola! no regrouping is required. It works anytime there are double zeros. This will solve many of the problems 3rd graders experience in making change. Hope it helps.

My mantra is "start with the cost and count up to paid/with/amount." I teach them to count up from the cost to the amount the person uses to pay with...say 12 cents is the cost and they pay with a quarter. The students start with 12 and add pennies as they count up until they get to a multiple of 5 or 10... 13 cents (1 penny), 14 cents (2nd penny), 15 cents (3rd penny), 25 cents (dime)....now they count the coins to see how much change is needed. For 2nd graders the physical coins really help. After awhile I have them draw the coins instead of get them out. Later in the year when they can regroup, it does help to show them how to do it via subtraction, too.

Sometimes the obvious is overlooked! I can't wait to bring this to my kids tomorrow. Thank you so much! My only concern is that this method avoids learning to regroup to (essentially) the hundreds (and more) place(s). But I can cross that bridge later as well.

I do understand your concern -- just remember that developmentally, third graders are just getting the point of being able to truly understand regrouping, and they don't usually have to understand it to the hundreds at this age level (at least in most states, they only have to know it to the double digits -- 1-99.) Lay the foundation, and they will get it -- later in the year or at least they will have the basics for next year. Yeah, when I first learned the penny trick, I had a real "Wow! I could've had a V8!" moment! (Just beware, they will often forget to subtract the penny from the second number, so you have to keep reminding them.) Good luck!