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Counting the 50 States!

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In this game, students will use the United States Mint 50 State Quarters® Program to learn and review the location of each of the 50 states.

Coin Type(s)

  • Cent
  • Nickel
  • Dime
  • Quarter

Coin Program(s)

  • 50 State Quarters
  • Generic


  • Students will learn the 50 states and identify each one on a United States map.
  • Students will practice counting and exchanging money.

Major Subject Area Connections

  • Social Studies

Minor/supporting Subject Area Connections

  • Math


  • Third grade
  • Fourth grade
  • Fifth grade

Class Time

Sessions: One
Session Length: 30-45 minutes
Total Length: 0-45 minutes


  • Whole group
  • Small groups

Background Knowledge

  • States
  • Location
  • Counting money

Terms and Concepts

  • Coins
  • Money
  • Quarter
  • State


For each group of 3 to 5 players:

  • 1 Die
  • 50 pennies (or images)
  • 20 nickels (or images)
  • 15 dimes (or images)
  • 1 of each of the 50 State Quarters (or images)
  • 1 bag or box

In addition:

  • 1 unlabeled map of the United States for each student
  • 1 labeled map of the United States for each group's banker


  • Copy blank U.S. maps
  • Gather coins
  • Cut out images if used
  1. Displaying the 50 State Quarters (or images of them) and a map of the United States. Explain to the students that the 50 State Quarters Program began in 1999. During the program, the United States Mint struck a new quarter every ten weeks to honor one of the 50 states. The quarters were struck in the same order as the states' birthdays. The program ended in 2008.

  2. Explain to the students that they will be playing a game whose goal is to learn more about U.S. geography and to practice counting and exchanging money.

  3. Separate the class into groups of 3 to 5. Distribute one bag to each group filled with 50 quarters (or images of them) and one die. Then distribute one blank U.S. map to each student.

  4. Have each student roll the die. The person who rolls the smallest number in their group will be the banker for their group. The banker’s job is to check the players’ answers and to distribute and exchange money. This person will be responsible for the bag of quarters. To each banker, distribute one U.S. map labeled with the states’ names, 50 pennies, 20 nickels, and 15 dimes. Instruct the bankers not to show the labeled map to other students.

  5. Model the procedure of the game to the students using one of the the bankers as your banker. As you perform these tasks, explain that each turn begins by drawing a quarter out of the group's bag and reading aloud the state that the quarter represents. The player finds this state on his/her blank map and labels it, then shows the map to the banker. The banker refers to the labeled map to verify that the correct state has been labeled. If the player is correct, the other members of the group label the state on their maps to keep track of the group’s progress and the player gets to roll the die. If not correct, that player's turn is over.

  6. For each number the player rolls on the die, the player receives a penny from the banker. (For example: if a 4 is rolled, the player receives 4 pennies from the banker.) If this is not the player's first turn, he or she must exchange their pennies for larger denominations.  (For example: if a player rolled a 3 on the first turn and a 6 on the second turn, 5 of the 9 pennies must be exchanged for a nickel with the banker.) The exchange (if any) marks the end of the turn.

  7. Tell the students that the next player proceeds in the same way. If a player draws a state that the group members have already labeled on their maps, it should be put aside (with the banker) and another quarter drawn. The play continues around the group until someone reaches 50 cents. Each person is responsible for counting his/her money.

  8. Once someone reaches 50 cents, the player turns it over to the banker for verification. If the banker confirms that the player has 50 cents or more, that player is the winner.

There are no modification options for this lesson plan.
  • Double check the maps for accuracy as the students are playing.
  • Double check the total amount of coins each player has as the students are playing.
  • To evaluate retention, give a follow-up test on the states and their location or on counting money.

This lesson plan is not associated with any Common Core Standards.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: 3-5 Number and Operations
Cluster: Compute fluently and make reasonable estimates.
Grade(s): Grades 3–5

In grades 3–5 all students should

  • develop fluency with basic number combinations for multiplication and division and use these combinations to mentally compute related problems, such as 30 × 50;
  • develop fluency in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers;
  • develop and use strategies to estimate the results of whole-number computations and to judge the reasonableness of such results;
  • develop and use strategies to estimate computations involving fractions and decimals in situations relevant to students' experience;
  • use visual models, benchmarks, and equivalent forms to add and subtract commonly used fractions and decimals; and
  • select appropriate methods and tools for computing with whole numbers from among mental computation, estimation, calculators, and paper and pencil according to the context and nature of the computation and use the selected method or tools.

Discipline: Mathematics
Domain: All Representation
Cluster: Instructional programs from kindergarten through grade 12 should enable all students to
Grade(s): Grades 3–5

  • Create and use representations to organize, record, and communicate mathematical ideas
  • Select, apply, and translate among mathematical representations to solve problems
  • Use representations to model and interpret physical, social, and mathematical phenomena