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  • Writer's pictureLaurent Plaisimond

Implicit Math Learning

using dollar bills instead of digital currency to teach implicit math skills through real-world applications

Thinking back to my student years, memories of buying small treats with my saved-up allowance from stores come flooding back. Even when my caretakers were buying things like food, toys, or tickets to events, cash was a normal part of everyday interactions. These small opportunities to see people exchange bills and get change back made me aware that these pieces of paper had an intrinsic value that matched the objects being bought. Another small event that I used to think was insignificant was signing out to go to the bathroom and reading an analog clock to note the time, which helped me practice my math skills. Today’s children are not as lucky. Although purchases are still being made all around, they’re cloaked in taps of our iPhones or swipes of credit and debit cards, with the real numbers trapped within the cards and mobile devices.


With Mr. L’s tutoring, I bring cash to the forefront of children’s experience with math to show how applicable these math skills are. Not only do students learn what coins represent what quantities, but we can also talk about the word ‘cent’ and connect it to percentages. By creating a direct connection between 100 cents in a dollar and 100%, we can use the percentage symbol itself to start a conversation about fractions and how to express quantities that are below one whole. Next time you purchase something with your child present, you can ask them to estimate the change you'll get back if you have $100 and the purchase costs X amount. Estimation is a skill we've developed that is very useful when making quick decisions about purchases, work schedules, scheduling events, and travel time.

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