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Why Incorporate Money and Thermometer into our Mathematics Lessons


  • Why it's important to add money to your math lessons

  • How to use thermometer to support your math lessons

  • Examples demonstrating the need to teach money and thermometer

Despite the fact that the learning of money is minimal in the Alberta curriculum; and thermometer(temperature) completely removed, I strongly believe it is of the utmost importance to add it to our students’ math learning at ALL grade levels.

I have included money and temperature into my Grade 3  math lessons on a daily basis. And because of it, the development of number sense and connection to other outcomes has been incredible!

When writing my Kindergarten through Gr. 6 Math For Success teacher guide books I didn’t hesitate to incorporate both money and thermometer (temperature). I am most definitely including it into my Gr. 7 book, which has been in pilot mode.  Math For Success Guidebooks

I often have been questioned through the years, why I have included money and temperature into the teacher guide books I have written if it is not in curriculum? I have also heard from many teachers since it is not in curriculum they will not incorporate it into their students’ math learning.

I will put forth the following questions:

  • Is money not number?
  • Is money not connected to place value, operations,  fractions, decimals, percentages?
  • Is it not an important life skill that is needed for daily life and decision making?  
  • Is thermometer not a visual representation of a number line that is vertical rather than horizontal?
  • Is it also not part of our daily life with regards to weather and decisions that would need to be made in relation to temperature.

I think sometimes, teachers become too focused on the ‘what’ that is to be taught rather than the ‘how’. I also think that teachers are looking at mathematics as parts/pieces that are taught in an assembly line manner rather than seeing it as an interconnected entity.

BOTH money and thermometer are not only visual representations to develop numerical knowledge; but also, in my opinion are mathematical tools to help students develop number sense; and from that many outcomes are learned and meaningful connections made.



If the penny has been discontinued why are you including it?


It is connected to place value and place value in mathematics is the foundation in helping develop number sense.

How it is Used in Teaching

  • Skip counting by 1’s (pennies), 5’s (nickels), 10’s (dimes), 25’s (quarters)- connect it to the hundreds chart or a number line and that will help with the understanding of addition, factors, multiplication, divisibility
  • From skip counting will come the understanding of multiples because if you can count by 1’s and 10’s, connection to counting by 100 (loonies), 1000 (10 dollar bill) is made
  • Connection to place value which is the foundation of developing number sense
  • Decimal numbers
  • Fractional numbers - proper, improper and mixed
  • Percentages
  • Pattern

Real Life Stories Relating the Importance of Incorporating Money

Example 1

At the beginning of July I went to get a coffee from McDonalds. The lady who served me was close to 40 years of age, if not older. I ordered a large coffee which is $1.75. I handed her a $5.00 bill but for some reason she punched into the register $20.00. Of course it showed to give me back $18.25.

I told her I gave her a five, not a 20. She became nervous and I tried to explain to her how much change she needs to give me. She fiddled with the money and proceeded to hand me $15.75 cents. |I was confused as to how she was trying to calculate this. I told her again, I gave her five dollars and she needs to give me $3.25 back because it is 25 cents to 2 dollars (175 + 25 is 200) and 2 plus 3 is 5. (200 + 300 is 500)

She became absolutely rattled and said to me, I will just believe what you tell me and she handed me the $3.25.


Now, let me give you another story with a very different outcome. It was middle of June and our Gr. 4 students were selling cotton candy as a fund raiser. A Gr. 3 student in my room ordered 2 bags and the cost was $3.50. My educational assistant was standing near the children when the exchange was taking place. My young student (age 8) handed the gr. 4 girls a $5.00 bill. The change given back was less than it should have been. She was able to tell them, without hesitation, as well as with confidence, that what they gave back was incorrect. She also explained to them what they owe her and why.

My educational assistant came to me right away to tell me what had happened and it demonstrated for me the importance of learning money and how it is connected to developing overall number sense!

Example 2

I went to a store at the beginning of September and there was a 10% discount on all products. The clerk was in her mid to late 60’s and she is a very intelligent woman who was a school teacher years ago and has ran a business for 25-30 years.

My total came to $117.50 and she figured something out on paper and asked me if 10% of $117.50 was $7.50? We were so busy chatting about a variety of things that my mind was not focused on what she was calculating; and I have dealt with this business for years, so of course I trusted her.

I left the store and on my way home I started to think, how could that be? 10% of $100.00 is $10.00 and 10% of $10.00 is $1.00 and 10% of $7.50 is 75 cents, so therefore, 10% of $117.50 is $11.75. Or 10% of 11 750 is 1175 but written as a money notation and connecting to place value that would be $11.75.

I turned around and went back and explained my thinking and was reimbursed the shortfall of $4.25.

I am confident that some of my grade 3 students by the end of the year would have been more than capable of figuring this out because of the work we engaged in with money on a daily basis through the math routine in my Math For Success teacher guide books.

Real Life Situations Involving the Need to Understand Money

  • Young children earn money for chores/allowances and they may be saving to buy something. Therefore, they would be able to figure out how many chores and the length of time it would take them to earn the amount they need. (or perhaps they are collecting can/bottles to take to the Bottle Depot and keeping track to a specific value)
  • Young children may be given money for a birthday gift or allowance and want to go shopping. They need to know if they have enough money to purchase an item(s) of choice?
  • Children as they grow into young adults need to learn about budgeting their money/earnings.
  • When borrowing money there are interest rates on lines of credit, visa cards, mortgages, loans
  • If there are sales at stores they need to determine if it is a savings and what is the better buy (eg. two for $5.00 or one for $2.75)
  • If there is a discount on sales items and/or extra discounts on already discounted items, is it really a savings and if so how much?
  • They are setting up a lemonade stand to earn a specific amount of money and figuring out that if they sold an x amount of cups of lemonade they would make an x amount of dollars
  • If wanting to make investments understanding of money is needed
  • Making wise and solid economical decisions in life
  • If wanting to start and/or run a business, figuring out prices so materials/products/wages can be paid, but also a profit can be earned
  • Job decision (Eg. Do I take this job that will pay x amount per hour and work 4 hours daily or do I take this other job that will pay x amount per hour but I work 8 hours 3 times weekly?)



I asked if I could buy a $6 loaf of bread with $5 and we said no! I asked why they said you don't have enough money, so the discussion went to value of money:

  • We need to know the value
  • It is important to know the value of money
  • We need to save to buy the bread.

Karen Bouliane - Gr. 1 Class

I always ask my kids how important is $ to them...?  They always respond it's very important to them because of all the things they can buy with it.  I then ask then isn't it important to count it and know how much change you should get so you aren't short changed?

Connections, connections connections...!!!!!!!

Mary Schatz - Grade 4 Teacher

  • So we can get food for our body to make us live(survive) and be alive longer
  • Be a banker
  • Buy food for people who are too old to go the the store
  • Make money when people shop
  • To buy stuff to grow

Diane Waldie - Kindergarten Class

  • You need to know how to pay for stuff
  • You have to earn money to buy things you need (house, clothes, car)
  • To buy water, groceries and important things to stay healthy
  • It shows you how to use money

Vanessa Hardy - Gr. 1 Class

  • You need to buy stuff, so you need to know how much it cost.
  • You need to know how much money you have before you can buy something
  • You are learning about the value of money (money and coins)
  • When you are grown up, you need to know how to pay your bills.
  • You need to understand the money to avoid making mistakes when paying for things and getting change.

Elena Reynolds - Gr. 2/3 Class

  • When we get older we will have to do taxes.
  • When we want to buy something we need to know we have enough money.
  • So we don’t get ripped off.
  • So we do not take long when paying.
  • Budgeting
  • To save
  • For working at a store (power off, tips)
  • So we do not go broke
  • Invest
  • You may not have an adult with you
  • To be independent

Dawnna Morgan - Grade 5/6 Class


How it is Used in Teaching

  • Vertical number line
  • Sequencing of number
  • Magnitude of number
  • Intervals
  • Difference between (subtraction)
  • Negative and positive integers

Real Life Situations Involving the Need to Understand Thermometer

  • How to dress for the weather
  • Would you run through the water sprinkler outside in a temperature of -5 degrees celsius?
  • Boiling and freezing temperatures for the purpose of cooking, building (certain materials contract and expand as temperatures drop and rise)  pouring concrete, putting out bedding plants, gardening, hatching baby chickens


Your Turn!

  • Ask your students why it is important for them to learn money and share the responses with us.
  • Incorporate the learning of money into your classroom and share the learning that came from it?

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