Teaching your students about U.S. currency is a great way to meet curriculum goals for social studies, art, math, and science, using an everyday object with which kids are already familiar. To help you do just that, the Federal Reserve's Currency Education Program has created two sections with fun, engaging activities that will help students better understand the currency in their pockets. Although the current materials are best suited for students in grades 2 through 5, many of the materials and concepts are applicable to students across a number of grade levels and settings.
These sections are a "Currency Academy" interactive learning experience that your students can navigate on their own or with help; and a "For Educators" section complete with lesson plans, videos, and activities that supplement the Currency Academy and will help you bring U.S. currency to life for your students.
Explore this page to find more information and everything you need to introduce your students to U.S. currency.
The Currency Academy is a digital learning experience created especially for a young audience. Your students will discover how currency is used in the Currency Academy, observe artistic concepts found in currency in the Art Studio, learn about how money works at the School Store, and compare elements of the natural world to the special features found on currency in the Science Lab. Use the below Currency Academy Companion Worksheet to check your students' learning comprehension with fun questions as they journey through the academy.
Carnival Thrills and Dollar Bills Children’s Book
Carnival Thrills and Dollar Bills is a fully illustrated book that introduces 1st – 3rd grade students to the unique features of Federal Reserve notes. The characters in the book journey through a nearby carnival, where they discover the similarities between the attractions and U.S. currency security features. Challenge students to find all the hidden objects in the book to strengthen their visual perceptiveness and observational skills. (Download the answer key.)
The free book is available in English or Spanish for you to order or download a 508-compliant version that is optimized for reading on a monitor or projecting on a screen.
"You'd be surprised" videos
The "You'd Be Surprised" videos were created to help youth learn about U.S. currency in a fun, relatable manner. To help you make the most of these videos, we've created accompanying Vocabulary and Play Money lesson plans to help your students explore the words and concepts introduced in the videos. Show the videos, one of which is also included in the Currency Academy's Science Lab, and use the lesson plans and worksheets to enhance your curriculum.
You'd Be Surprised: Special Features
This animated video shows students how the special features of U.S. currency are similar to the characteristics of some cool animals, making it great for use in the classroom.
You'd Be Surprised: The Journey
This animated video will teach your students about the lifecycle of U.S. currency through the journey of monarch butterflies.
Vocabulary Lesson Plans
Use the activities below to introduce students to words in the "You'd Be Surprised" currency videos that may not be familiar to them. Each lesson plan includes the concepts taught, the purpose of the lesson plan, materials needed, step-by-step instructions, and suggestions for modifying the lesson plan for different learning levels. Accompanying worksheets are included where applicable.
Students will work with their peers and move around the room to match vocabulary words to their definitions.
A Super Short Story
Students will work in small groups to create a super short story using vocabulary words from the videos.
Creating a Vocabulary Booklet
Students will make a vocabulary booklet of the new words they will learn in the videos.
Working with Words
Students will research a vocabulary word from the videos to find out its part of speech, definition, how to use it in a sentence, synonyms, and antonyms. They will also draw a picture or cartoon of the word.
Matching Words and Definitions
Students will work in small teams to match vocabulary words to their definitions using cards.
Play Money Lesson Plans
Use the activities below to introduce students to important currency concepts. Each lesson plan includes the concepts taught, the purpose of the lesson plan, materials needed, step-by-step instructions, and suggestions for modifying the lesson plan for different learning levels. Any accompanying worksheets are included.
Create a Money Graph
Students will learn about and identify different denominations of currency by creating and interpreting a bar graph.
Students will develop their writing skills by writing a narrative or opinion piece about currency.
Students will learn how to add currency and make change by going shopping in groups.
Money Scavenger Hunt
Students will go on a scavenger hunt to find and count hidden play money.
Using a bit of creativity and imagination, students will make spending decisions and practice counting by deciding what they will "buy" with $100.
Create a positive form of behavioral management for the classroom by giving students the opportunity to decide how they want to spend money they earn for good behavior.
Students will mimic a real-life use of currency and practice counting by "paying" for a restaurant bill with play money.
Roll to $100
Students will use dice to practice adding, counting, and changing money.
Students will work with a partner to learn the different ways currency can be used, adding and subtracting money as it is spent or saved.
Money Venn Diagram
Students will compare and contrast different denominations by creating a Venn diagram about currency features.
For more great resources on U.S. currency, explore the Federal Reserve's Education Link.