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Money Skills for Remedial Math Students

Tate J. Hedtke

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

School of Graduate and Professional Programs

Portfolio for Wisconsin Teaching Standards 4 and 6

Education 692: Technology and Communication

Jeanine Gelhaus: Instructor

May 31st, 2017

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Students with delayed or impaired math skills have difficulties understanding the concept

and value of money, and how to work with it in their daily lives. Not being able to work with

money, make change, or count small amounts can have adverse effects on their lives, and hinder

employment opportunities in the future. Browder and Grasso (1999) pointed out that “having the

autonomy to earn, manage, and spend one’s own money can be an important way to gain greater

control over one’s life. Students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities often have typical

social skills, and desires, such as living and working independently. If one does not have the

ability to manage and manipulate money, they will never have the ability to do these things.

Financial literacy is an important aspect of independence, but it is a complex topic.

Before students can ever hope to plan for a budget, pay bills, or balance a checkbook they need

to be able to understand basic mathematical concepts and computations, especially counting and

manipulating money (VanBergeijk and Cavanagh 2012). The transition from childhood and

school, to independence and adulthood does not happen overnight and needs to be addressed

early on in a student’s education. This researched has decided to make money literacy the focus

of this study.

The students chosen for this study are two individuals, one freshmen male, and one

sophomore male that have mild to moderate intellectual disabilities, and a strong desire to work

and be productive members of society. The focus of this study is to implement methods to help

them become more independent, and confident with their money skills so one day they can use

them professionally. Initially, these students were only able to count sums of money under ten

dollars using a variety of coins and bills around fifty percent of the time. The researcher hopes

to increase these abilities to seventy five percent of the time.

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Although these students are both in high school, the educator has decided to focus on a

second grade standard to help improve their abilities. Both students are on the Common Core

Essential Elements Standards for those with intellectual disabilities, and is therefore provided

flexibility in what curriculum he chooses to teach.


Solve word problems involving dollar bills, quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies, using $

and ¢ symbols appropriately. Example: If you have 2 dimes and 3 pennies, how many

cents do you have? (Common Core Standards)

The following is an introductory lesson designed to teach students how to use a program they are

unfamiliar with, Touch Math for Upper Grades. This system is designed to help students learn a

multi-sensory method to count change and effectively count change and bills. Towards the end

of the lesson, students will be using a web based game called Prodigy Game, which is designed

to align with common core standards and reinforce skills and abilities in students grades K-12.

1) Target Skill
Students will be able to effectively count the correct amount of money given different
denominations of bills and coins.
2) Lesson Procedure
a) Ensure that all students have knowledge of the different coins. Place coins in
front of students, and make sure they know the names, and value of each coin. (2-
3 minutes)

b) Review skip counting by five. Students should be able to count to 100 by fives in
order to use the touch money method. (5 minutes)

c) Introduce the steps to count mixed amounts of money (20 minutes)

i) Count bills first, and record the amounts
ii) Organize coins in piles according to denominations.
iii) Count the coins from the pile with quarters, then dimes, then nickels, then
pennies. Students will assign touch points to each coin. Quarters receive
5 touch points, all the while skip counting by five for each touch. Dimes
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will receive 2 touches, nickels one. Afterwards, students will count by

iv) Students will then add the value of the bills to the coins.

d) Students will practice several of these on their own. (5 minutes)

e) Students will then practice on www.prodigygame.com . This is a role playing

(until the end of class and as homework) game where students fight monsters,
and battle to earn money, and buy gear. The only way they can win however is to
complete math problems the teacher has selected. I have selected all second grade
money counting problems. This is an easy review as well as assessment tool, and
the kids really seem to enjoy it.

Pre-Assessment Data
The pre-assessment data was completed using worksheets designed to align with

Common Core

Standards. One

student performed

with a forty percent

success rate, while

the other achieved at

a sixty percent

success rate. This

Graph A
information is shown

in Graph A, and was produced using Google Sheets.

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There are two bits of instruction that will be used to help the students improve their

money literacy. The first, with the use of the TouchMath Program. The TouchMath program

has been well researched, and implemented over the past nearly thirty years. It plays upon the

notion that coins are awarded a certain number of dots, a nickel one, a dime two, a quarter five

with each dot being worth five cents. Students with disabilities find it much easier to skip count

by fives, rather than perform mental math computations (Waters and Boon 2011). This is an

effective method to teach the individuals the abilities needed to become proficient in math, while

the second piece of technology will allow the individuals to hone their skills.

TouchMath instruction happens in the classroom directly between students and their

teacher. Students have manipulatives they are able to move around, and in this situation, it was

decided the students would use real money as fake money, or paper can sometimes be confusing

or difficult to decipher. The students are given brief introductions on a day by day basis with the

different coins and bills, and then expected to complete several practice problems on their own

using real money.

Prodigy Math is an online based game where teachers organize a class, and assign

assignments based on a variety of skill levels and subject areas. Math levels range from first

grade through eighth grade and include all skills required in those areas according to the

common core. Students manage their own accounts, and can work independently or as a group.

Students are able to work anywhere they have internet access, which could cause problems in

rural or impoverished areas. The majority of the students time spent on Prodigy was outside of

the classroom as that time was reserved for direct instruction.

The game play on Prodigy Math is akin to that of a video game, and hones in on the

addictive nature of combat and video games in order to appeal to the students. It is very similar
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to Pokemon, and forces students to battle monsters by completing math problems in order to

increase their strength, earn money, and buy new gear. Student’s always want to become

stronger, better equipped, and climb the leaderboard all while completing math problems.


Students abilities were improved throughout this process. Students scores improved by

ten percent over the duration of the experiment which is very reassuring. TouchMath has already

been proven to improve the abilities of disabled students when counting money (Waters and

Boon 2011), but with a longer trial sample abilities could be improved even more with the use

of the Prodigy math game. The Prodigy game appeals to the students desire to play video games

in school, and was even used by the students while not in the classroom. This is because of its

addictive nature and perhaps the fact that the assignment were something different then in

worksheet form.

Although successful, the results may be a bit skewed due to the types of assessments

used. A website called commoncoresheets.com to print the assessments. As the trial went on

however, student’s abilities improved and they were challenged with more difficult daily work

and assessments. The research should have standardized all of the assessments and decided upon

which ones to use before the experiment began. Another error in the experiment is obviously the

sample size. Only two students were available in the researcher’s math group to include in the


Next Steps

As students improve in their money counting abilities, they can be applied more directly

towards their functional skills in the community and incorporate community outings to ensure
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the students are able to use money independently. Also, when discussing transition it would be

ideal to impress upon the students the value of money in correlation to their goals and hopes of

future employment.


1) Browder, D. M., & Grasso, E. (1999). Teaching Money Skills to Individuals with Mental
Retardation. Remedial and Special Education,20(5), 297-308.
2) C. (2009). Grade 2 » Measurement & Data. Retrieved June 01, 2017, from
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3) Waters, H. E., & Boon, R. T. (2011). Teaching Money Computation Skills to High
School Students with Mild Intellectual Disabilities via the TouchMath Program: a multi-
sensory approach. Education and Training in Autism and Disabilities,46(4), 544-555.
Retrieved May 31, 2017.
4) VanBergeijk, E. O., & Cavanagh, P. K. (2012, November). Teaching Financial Literacy:
a key aspect on the road to independence. Exceptional Parent, 26-28.