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Monday, February 6, 2023

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The Art of Counting Change

Is it me or do today’s children and teens have a fuzzy concept of money? Perhaps it’s because they don’t see money exchanged at the point-of-sale. More people use debit and credit cards these days. Perhaps $11.66 is seen as a number and not money to separate—one penny, one nickel, one dime, two quarters, $1 bill and a $10 bill.

This is most apparent at the cash register when counting change back to the customer. The pause when giving correct change is not only among young workers but adults too. Adult math anxiety brings about trouble with basic counting, slowness and less accuracy.

Maybe counting change is easy to me. In my first job, I used an old typewriter-style cash register. The only way to give correct change was to count it. It seems with technology that we rely on what the screen tells us to be correct. Do you want the satisfaction of knowing you did it right, or to be dependent on a machine?

No one wants to be embarrassed or seen struggling with mistakes when pressured to give change quickly. Teach your kids these two basic rules of giving change, and they will be pros in no time.

Start with the smallest. Count up to make change starting with coins (smallest value first—pennies, nickels, dimes, and then quarters) before giving paper money (smallest value first $1, $5, $10, $20).

Teach the cash value of coins. Sounds dumb, but some people don’t know that a penny is worth one cent, a nickel is five cents, a dime is 10 cents and a quarter is 25 cents.

Recently, within a couple of days, I had two friends from different states mention on Facebook that their cashier got confused and didn’t know how much change to give. The first situation:

“My coffee came to $2.12 and I handed the cashier a $5. I was taken back when she asked me how much change I get back. When I told her $2.88, she asked, ‘Which coins do I use?’”

And the second:

“My bill was $3.57. I handed her a $20 bill and she entered this amount in the register before I was able to give her 57 cents, since I only wanted to get bills back. It took three minutes of me teaching her counting change to understand how much she owed me. I finally gave up and did it for her to insure I’d get my correct change of $17. We are failing young people badly, folks.”

Teach the art of counting change to be a fun game. It gives kids the exposure to physical money that they need and builds their confidence.

Nikki Ducas
Nikki Ducas
Nikki Ducas is a freelance writer and for the past 8+ years writes the money column for Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine. She has lived in Fredericksburg for 16 years with her husband and is a homeschooling mom to their two boys. Nikki enjoys hiking, knitting and her other side hustles of pet sitting and event management.

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