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Make math make "cents"

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Dear U.S. Department of the Treasury,

Everyday around the world, people go hungry. Wars are fought. Lives are lost for seemingly pointless reasons.

It is indeed a cruel and unjust world.

So why make it any harder? Do you realize how difficult it is to count combinations of coins when you have to deal with quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies? Sure, it might not seem like too much of a headache for most people, but there are thousands of folks out there with (and without!) disabilities who struggle to figure out what 1 quarter, 3 dimes, 7 nickels and 3 pennies equals.

Why not keep it simple with just dimes and pennies? It’s a heck of a lot easier to count by tens and ones, and remember that the number of dimes go in the tenths place while the number of pennies goes in the hundredths.

And while we’re talking about tens and ones, why couldn’t we have just stuck with $1, $10, $100 bills, and so on? Trust me, it’s a lot easier to figure out correct combinations of bills and coins when you know which place each type of bill goes. Those $20 and $5 bills really just get in the way and make money more confusing. Thank goodness the $2 bill never caught on. Imagine the havoc that would have wreaked in special education classrooms.

Also, whose bright idea was it to make dimes smaller than nickels? If you just had to throw nickels into the mix, why make them bigger?

And if you were going to make money different sizes and colors, WHY don't you write its numerical value on it like other currencies around the world? Visitors to our country routinely have the same complaint.

I’m a special education teacher whose students with severe disabilities have struggled to count money and make change. They’re leaning it, but not without first taking away those darn $20, $5, quarters and nickels. It’s difficult for them to learn in general, and made even more difficult because our money system just isn’t very sensible. But they trudge along and learn it, because they know that otherwise they’ll continue to get cheated in stores, and that they’ll continue to rely on others to do basic things, like buy gum at the gas station.

I still appreciate everything you do for us, especially that tax return I just got. But I hope you realize the trouble you’ve caused. Don’t feel like you’re alone, however. I also have a beef with the American system of measurement and whoever set up the analog clock.

Yours truly,

Jessica Shyu

11 Comments

I really like how you tie together the big issues and the grassroots issues. I understand intuitively why we need metric measurements and a more rational system of coinage, but you give it a human face.

Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the classroom, not just on the reservation, but in many others as well!

I also teach Spec. Ed. classes. If I am remembering correctly, the dime is smaller because it used to have a fairly high silver content and the nickle used to have a high nickle content. Cost = volume of material +/-. I can understand confusion about quarters and $20 bills but they are useful as they conserve resources and space. If a student can grasp minimal fractions they can learn quarters based on the fractions 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 Metrics aside, a fair comprehension of counting by 5's is very helpful. I feel your pain r.e. math of money, Good luck.

RESPONSE:
Thanks, James. Any suggestions from vets on teaching counting coins to students with moderate MR is always appreciated!

I'm a former sped teacher.

Here's a link to a coin practice software program http://www.jumpingminds.com/coinpractice.htm with an authorized complementary download.

This site also has other free education software teachers and parents use successfully in schools and homes.

In addition, check out tabletpcpost.com for more authorized free education software.

These have all been developed for Tablet PCs and Ultra-Mobile PCs. Perhaps you can use them on your computer as others have found ways to do on non-mobile PCs.

Dear Jessica,
Yah-tah-eh. What about using money as your motivator in the classroom? Use plastic coins and imitation bills as rewards for behavior or work completed. That way they have a real connection to it - which is, after all, how the Big World works. I taught on the O'odham Rez for several years and the kids responded quickly to any kind of positive reinforcement. It might just help them get it. Good luck.
Marc

The problem of units of measure is not in our money system or our coinage. 100 cents to a dollar. How much simplier can one get. Nickels, dimes and quarters? Count by five.

The real problem with our measurement system is that we refuse to conform to the metric system. I think I can teach students to count money using coins easier than I can teach students to convert from inches to feet to yards to miles.

As I see it, the problem is with students who are not motivated to learn how to deal with the real world regardless of the system of measure or whether we are reading analog dials or digital readouts.

Maybe I missed your point, Jessica, but unlike the other "posters," I simply ENJOYED your essay about coins! I'm still smiling, even after reading the well-meant words of advice from James, Bob, Marc, and Reynold. At first I thought, "Oh, well, they just can't see the humor in math--must be a male thing." But no, Phil also enjoyed the piece for what it is--a nicely constructed and highly readable essay reminding us that learning can be frustrating and that tall people don't make it any easier :-)

[I taught English and other language arts at Shiprock High School in the late 60s. My classes proudly took a blue ribbon for their English project at the Navajo Fair! So good to read about your experience. Thank you, Jehanne

Ahh...the devilish dime.
Try attaching one penney to one unix cube, one nickel to five unix cubes and one dime to tne unix cubes. Discuss "cents", and now the sizes make sense.

RESPONSE:
Love that strategy. I'm totally going to use it next time and share it with my teachers. Thanks!
-- Jessica

Indeed you're right. Btw, I'm having problem to subscribe to your feed, can you fix it?

I like this info given and it has given me some kind of dedication to have success for some cause, so thanks!

one dime to tne unix cubes. Discuss "cents", and now the sizes make sense.

RESPONSE:
Love that strategy. I'm totally going to use it next time and share it with my teachers. Thanks!

Awesome Post! I wish you the best in all of your online ventures.

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