Why is this skill important?

Clearly understanding how we write amounts of money is itself an important skill for daily life in the 21st century. However, understanding that six pounds and four pence is not written as £6.4 is, mathematically speaking, much more important than simply in reference to daily life. Decimal fractions – the idea that we can divide a whole into tenths and hundredths and then write these parts as a decimal – is an extension of our understanding of place value (see Number: Place value) and is a crucial part of comprehending how our number system works.

Children will need to understand and perform calculations using decimals, and also to understand their use in relation to both money and measures. Distance, lengths, capacities and weights are all areas where a good understanding of these numbers is not just advantageous, it is essential.  Small wonder that this skill is regarded as one of the necessary building blocks for a secure foundation in mathematics education.

What is the skill?

It may seem to most adults that there is no difficulty in writing simple amounts of money. However, this is an area in mathematics education where our very familiarity with the skill blinds us to the problems that many children can encounter. The difference between three pounds and four pence and three pounds and forty pence may seem obvious to adults; the latter is written as 3.40 but you do not write 3.4 for the former. For some children, writing three pounds and four pence as 3.04 does not come naturally. It depends upon understanding that the zero is used to indicate no tenths – or 10ps.

 The link with place value here is obvious. In reading or writing amounts of money, children have to understand that the first ‘4’ in 444 is worth ten times more than the second four, and one hundred times more than the last four. In a similar vein, children have to understand that in £4.44, the first ‘4’ (£4) is worth ten times more than the second ‘4’ (40p) and one hundred times more than the  last ‘4’ (4p).  (See Number: Place value).

So how is this skill taught?

By far the best way – perhaps the only way – to teach the concept of pounds, ten pence and one pence values that are necessary for children to understand money notation is to use real money! You will need one pound coins, 10p coins and 1p coins – no others are required at the moment. 

  • Write an amount of money where the pence and the pounds are the same digit, e.g. £2.52.
  • Ask the child to read this amount of money out loud,
    ‘two pounds and fifty-two pence’.
  • Now ask them to make that amount using the coins.
  • Match the coins to the amount – two pound coins to the £2, five 10p coins to the ‘5’ and two 1p coins to the ‘2’.
    This will give a really concrete illustration of the value of each number in the written amount.
  • Continue to stress that the number(s) just after the £ sign and before the point are pounds, the first number after the point indicates the 10ps and the second number after the point indicates the 1ps. If there are no 10ps or no 1ps or even no pounds, then we use a zero in that place.

Thus £3.09 is 3 pounds, no 10ps and 3 1ps, and £0.84 is no pounds, 8 10ps and 4 1ps. 

Test your child’s understanding by:

  • Saying an amount and asking them to write it down,
  • Writing an amount and asking them to make it with coins: pounds, 10ps and 1ps (no other coins required)
  • Writing an amount and asking the child to say it, then to say the amount 10p more or less.

 Summarising, writing amounts of money is the precursor to developing an understanding of the decimal system. Since children will need to have secure foundations for this piece of mathematics, we need to ensure that they are confident in writing and reading amounts of money and in using money notation. Being able to do this depends utterly on a robust understanding of place value in three-digit and four-digit numbers. Children need to understand how the number system works.

Practise Together: These activities are intended to be shared. Read the Explanation of the skill being practised and then play the game or share the task. Watch out for the points highlighted in the Explanation and if necessary, help your child, following the advice in ‘How this skill is taught’ section. Shared activities are not only more fun – they enable you to actively support your child’s learning.

Explanation & Worksheets: Having practised a skill together using the shared activities, children can then rehearse the skill using the ‘Child alone’ sheets. These are presented in order of difficulty 1-5 and should only be given to the child AFTER the Practise Together activities. In this way you can be sure that the child has acquired this skill first. We cannot rehearse what something have not yet learned!

Test: Take a test, questions from this area

Counting in sequence: Count any sequence of numbers from 1 to 10,000 forward or back with confidence

Read & write numbers: Read and write the numbers 0-10,000

Place value: Understand that 4392 is made up of 4000 + 300 + 90 + 2 and that 4092 has no hundreds

Money: Begin to understand that £6.54 is six pounds and 54 pence and that £6.04 is six pounds and 4p while £6.40 is six pounds and 40p

Counting in tens & hundreds: Count in tens or hundreds forward and back from any number, e.g. 284, 294, 304, 314, etc. understanding how to cross a multiple of 10, 100 or 1000

Count multiples: Count in (add or subtract) multiples of 10, 100 or 1000 (800+300)

Writing fractions: Understand how fractions are written, e.g. ½ and ¾ and begin to realise that ½ is the same as 2/4 or 3/6 etc.

Number Concepts: Count in different ways, understand how numbers work, become fluent in the ways of numbers

Adding and Subtracting: Mentally add or subtract numbers with confidence and develop written ways of adding and subtracting larger numbers or more of them!

Multiplying and Dividing: Know the times tables and use these to perform mental multiplication and divisions; develop written methods for multiplication and division.

7-9: Lower Juniors

9-11: Upper Juniors