Skip to main content

Learning to Count Money: Muffin Tin Coin Sort

Learning to count money is an important math skill for your child. This early learning math activity will help her learn how to count coins.
Learning to Count Money

Learning to Count Money: Muffin Tin Coin Sort

When kids are first learning about money, it can be hard to tell one coin from another, let alone figure out what the value of each coin is. It is better to play money games with real coins instead of plastic ones. That way your child will get a sense of the weight of each coin, the ridges on the edges, and all the other things that make real coins unique from plastic or paper ones. A muffin tin is just the right size to help your child learn to sort coins by size and denomination. There are a few different ways to do this.

Skills Being Practiced

  • Money sense
  • Recognition of different coin features
  • Naming coins
  • Recognition of the value of coins
  • Sorting

What You Need

  • Several pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters (in a small zip-top bag or container)
  • Muffin tin
  • Paper muffin cup liners
  • Paper
  • Marker

Get Ready to Play

1. Show your child the pile of coins you have, and ask her if she recognizes and/or can name any of them. If she is unable to name them, take one penny, one nickel, one dime, and one quarter out of the pile and line them up from smallest denomination to largest. Name each coin and its value.
2. Place one of each of the coins in a different cup of the muffin tin, and give your child the rest of the coins. Ask her to put them in the correct muffin cups according to how you have started sorting them.
3. Ask your child to take out all the 1-cent coins. Ask her to remind you what they are called. Do the same for the rest of the coins.
4. Your child will mostly see money words in books, on signs, or math worksheets, so she'll need to recognize them in typed and printed form, too. On a piece of paper, write the words "penny," "nickel," "dime," and "quarter," so your child can see them in print. Place one of the correct coins next to each word, so she can associate the coin with the word. Use a marker to write each of the words on the bottom of a paper muffin cup liner.
5. Place the liners in the muffin tin and have your child sort again, using the words as a guide.
6. Repeat this process with the value of the coins, using both the "¢" sign and the word "cents," so your child is familiar with both.

How to Play

1. In separate cups of a muffin tin, place 25 pennies, 15 nickels, 15 dimes, and 10 quarters. If you have half-dollar coins, put 2 of them in another section.
2. Give each player one penny with which to begin the game.
3. Choose a player to start the game. That player flips his penny to see if it lands on "heads" or "tails." If it is "heads," he gets to pick a penny from the muffin tin. If it is "tails," it's the next player's turn.
4. Once a player has 5 pennies, he can trade them in for a nickel. When he has 2 nickels or a nickel and 5 pennies, he can trade in for a dime, and so forth.
5. The game play continues until a player has a dollar's worth of coins.

Extend the Learning

Write amounts on the bottom of muffin cup liners that will require your child to add two coins together. For instance, try writing amounts like "26 cents" or "6 cents" on the liner, placing them in the tin and asking your child to put the right combination of coins in each cup.

Join the Family

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.