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A Lesson Plan for Teaching Money Management to Kids With Disabilities

Tim Truzy is a rehabilitation counselor, educator, and former dispatcher from North Carolina.

Students who are visually impaired benefit from shopping trips in the community when learning to manage money.

Students who are visually impaired benefit from shopping trips in the community when learning to manage money.

Why Conduct a Lesson About Money?

Money plays a role in most functions of daily living, especially for tasks like shopping at centers, such as that in the photo. Money can be thought of as something agreed upon by a group, society, or across the globe which has value. Conveying such a concept to children who have disabilities is essential in helping them prepare for adult life. Of course, every child isn’t the same in their exposure to the value and use of money. For this reason, I incorporated discussions, repetition, and role modeling into the lesson to address deficits in learning while providing a variety of interactions. By engaging in these steps, I prevented my students from being overwhelmed and allowed for a thorough conversation to occur.

However, you may want to conduct the lesson over several days in phases based on your time constraints and your students’ needs. You may wish to alter how you conduct the activities as well. Be as creative as you need to be. Although my students consisted of children who were in the elementary grades, the lesson below can be modified to work with high school students, adults with special needs, and individuals learning English.

Lesson Components

  • Goal – the goal of this lesson is to increase students’ knowledge of money (coins and bills) in accordance with the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) area of Independent Living Skills.
  • Vocabulary – These are words and phrases I incorporated into this lesson. They included: bank account, budget, and currency. I also talked with my class about the meaning of interest, loans, and funds. You may want to modify this list based on the requirements of your students and your time restraints.
  • Technology – You will need a computer to play the Schoolhouse Rock videos. (This is optional, but the videos can be found on the internet.)
  • Materials – You will need: play money (in bills), coins (preferably real), desks or tables to set up a make-believe store, items to represent products, such as small boxes, pens, pencils, books, etc.

Phase I: Introduction and Discussion

I initiated the lesson by playing the Schoolhouse Rock video: Money - Tyrannosaurus Debt. Then I inquired about my students’ knowledge of money and how to count and keep track of it. I also asked them what we use money for in our society. As the discussion progressed, I introduced vocabulary words and checked for understanding by intentionally misusing some of the vocabulary. For example, I would say: “I keep my saving account in the river bank.” Or I would say: “I have no interest in my savings account.” (My students roared with laughter.)

After my class demonstrated understanding, I inquired of my class: “How will you keep track of bills and coins?” One student responded: “I’ll use the internet to buy things I need.” Another indicated she would simply point her smartphone at the money to tell her what it was. One clever student pointed out that she would use her credit cards. I asked, “How would you know if the receipt you received after using your credit card is correct? In the end, you would need some form of technology to read that receipt or a person.”

I continued, “There are ways around all of these issues. What if all of your technology breaks down? What would you do to maintain your independence and watch your funds?”

Students with visual impairments use diameter, thickness, and edge texture to identify coins.

Students with visual impairments use diameter, thickness, and edge texture to identify coins.

Activity 1: Bring on the Money!

Since the children in my class have the primary disability of vision loss, I gave them all a stack of coins at their desks (dimes, quarters, pennies, etc.). I showed them how dimes were the smallest coins and quarters were the largest. We discussed the texture of pennies and nickels. We talked about the value of each coin and how many would make one U.S. dollar. I allowed the students to spend some time counting out their coins and telling me how much they had. (They loved it.) When they were done, I inquired:

Questions to Ask Students about Coins

  • How many quarters make a dollar?
  • How many pennies are in a dollar?
  • If I had two dimes and three nickels, how much money would I have? How much more would I need to have a dollar?
  • How many quarters would I need for two dollars? For five dollars, etc.?

Activity 2: Bills, Bills, and More Bills

I instructed my students to put the coins to the side, and I passed out play money. I explained: “One thing people do with vision loss is fold the different bill denominations.” I showed them different techniques for folding their money. (See pictures. I used real bills in the photos.) We talked about ways people carry their money: book sacks, wallets, purses, etc. I emphasized the importance of placing money in a safe out-of-sight place which is easily accessible for them. I encouraged the students to keep practicing folding their money for a few moments.

One dollar bills are left flat.

One dollar bills are left flat.

Five dollar bills are folded with short sides together.

Five dollar bills are folded with short sides together.

Ten dollar bills are folded with long sides together.

Ten dollar bills are folded with long sides together.

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Phase II: Budgets and Shopping

I instructed my students to put the dollars with the coins. We then talked about managing a budget. I explained the concept of saving money. We talked about banks, loans, and the concept of trying to avoid debt when possible. Then, I prepared my students to go on a pretend shopping trip.

Activity 3: Shopping

At the back of the class, I set up items on three desks (pens, books, pencils, and boxes). I stood behind one desk, telling my students that I was the cashier. I instructed them to go shop off the desks, bring me the items they wanted, and let me “ring them up.” (For fun, I’ve labeled the tables: candy, fruit, vegetables, and juices.) The students shopped for a while, then I rung them up on my pretend cash register, asking them to pay with the money they had. (To keep my children involved, I made pretend cash register noises. They laughed and stayed focused.)

Activity 4: The Teacher’s Turn

I instructed my students to return to their desks when we were through. I asked one student to volunteer to be the cashier. I went shopping at the desks, picking up everything I could. When I walked up to pay the cashier, I pretended not to have enough money. My student said, “You should have watched your budget, Mr. Truzy. You can’t buy all of these things without money.” I smiled. Lesson learned.

Review the Concepts

  1. We studied concepts related to the use of money.
  2. We looked at how to fold money and keep track of coins.
  3. We talked about going to reliable people, such as bank tellers, to assist with determining bill denominations if there is no technology available.
  4. We discussed the strategy of remembering or writing down your credit card number for easy access.
  5. We focused on ways to keep your money safe.

Activity 5: Homework

Give your students a budget. Tell them some things they need money for that week: bus fare, lunch money, and buying snacks. Tell them to prepare how they will spend their money and present it in class the next day. Be sure to give them the prices of the items to help them with decision making for the assignment.


Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on April 27, 2021:

Incororating different ways of using money is important. I encouraged my students to have friends, family members or folk they can rely on for accuracy of dealing with finances. They were encouraged to always not spend more than they have. Thanks for reading.

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on February 11, 2018:

Thank you, Ms. Dora. The reason the ECC exists is because there are many situations which people can learn through "incidental learning," or direct observation, which is not available to the student with vision loss because they cannot see the visual environment. I incorporated daily living activities while touching on the "base ten" system from math in order to help my students connect the dots mentally.

I learned many years ago from a brilliant teacher, since life involves many areas, a good lesson should stand alone but stand out by including other aspects of living. As we worked on money, we also did math exercises.

It helps, Ms. Dora, that my wife is a brilliant teacher in her own right. (She will let me know when something is not quite right, and I do the same.) :)

Thank you for reading and commenting. Managing money is something that should begin early. I love my children, and enjoy your thoughtful comments.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 11, 2018:

Your students are blessed to have you for their teacher. As important as this topic is, I have no memory of having it in any of classes. Good job you're doing!

Tim Truzy (author) from U.S.A. on February 09, 2018:

Fortunately, I had long class periods to work with my children, but I know that is not the norm. Yet, with modifications, a person can work in other areas of the ECC. For example, a teacher can discuss "the world of work" when talking about bank tellers and cashiers. Also, students can work on their academic compensatory skills through the use of money related to math. Finally, social interaction skills can be touched upon by discussing with the students how to interact with the bank teller, cashier, and others. This is a flexible lesson.

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