Category Archives: Information Visualization

Financial Literacy for the Elementary Student – Coin Box Simulator Through Anchored Instruction


Financial literacy is highlighted throughout the elementary grade levels in the Content area of BC’s New Curriculum. Most paper-pencil curricula address money identification, counting coin and dollar amounts, and one or two step word problems connected to money. However, these paper-pencil activities minimally equip students for financial literacy skills and applications. While exploring the information visualization simulators during this past week, the elementary and middle school simulations from Illuminations were easy to understand and seemed quite plausible to implement into already developed curriculum.

Literature Support for Lesson Cornerstones: 

In a study conducted by Srinivasan, Pérez, Palmer, Brooks, Wilson and Fowler (2006), engineering freshman students who completed learning using MATLAB did not experience what they perceive as an authentic experience. The students felt that their experience was disconnected from real expert experience because they manipulated a simulated system rather than a real-life system. The researchers conclude that a probable reason for this disconnect is that the students “need/want authenticity to be able to make connections the experts make with the simulation” (Srinivasan, 2006, p.140).  This perception from the students leads educators to consider the value of real-life experiences in connection with simulated experiences.

Transferring simulated experiences to real-life experiences is supported through the study completed by Finkelstein, Adams, Keller, Kohl, Perkins, Podolefsky and Reid (2005). In their study, students in a second semester introductory physics course, who had used a simulation first to design a circuit system, were more successful later in designing real-life models. These same students also achieved greater success on related exam material that was completed two months after the simulated and real-life circuit building experience (Finkelstein, 2005). Due to these findings, authenticity of learning through the transferring of knowledge from simulation to real-life experience is a main cornerstone of the following lesson design.

In addition to authenticity, two lesser cornerstones, rich content and goal challenge motivation, are also incorporated into the lesson design as supported through the writings of Srinivasan et al. (2006). A pre-test assessment begins the lesson in order to determine prior knowledge and the optimal area of learning for the individual student. As well, this pre-test assessment can be used to determine pairings/groupings throughout the lesson activities. By providing rich content within the lesson plan, this affords opportunity for students with less prior knowledge to acquire new knowledge before exploring the simulated and real-life experiences. Building prior knowledge within students is critical for their success as Srinivasan et al. (2006) state, “Prior knowledge accounts for the largest amount of variance when predicting the likelihood of success with learning new material” (p.138). In regards to gaining knowledge of the student’s optimal area of learning, this connects closely to Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, but is also supported by goal oriented motivation when learning goals are neither too steep, nor too simple: “If learning goals are too steep for a learner’s current context, learning is not successful. On the other hand, when learning is simple for the learner, the instruction can become over-designed and lead to diminished performance” (Srinivasan, 2006, p. 139).

Lesson Overview: 

The following lesson incorporates the instructional framework of anchored instruction. This has been accomplished through a narrative multi-step problem solving feature. The three cornerstones highlighted in the section above are evident within the lesson: goal challenge motivation {decided by pre-test assessment}, content-rich material, and authenticity through real-life application.


Pre-test Assessment:

Provide paper-pencil assessment including photos of Canadian coins asking students to identify individual coins.

Addition questions for pre-test assessment may include:

  • How many quarters makes a dollar? How many dimes? How many nickels?
  • Show 3 different ways of making one dollar using a mix of coin types. Draw coins with labelled amounts to share learning.

 Include two ‘making change’ questions that require student to calculate amount of change from $1.

Content-rich Material: 

Read and discuss Dave Ramsay’s book entitled, My Fantastic Fieldtrip on saving money.

Provide pairs of students with real sets of Canadian coins with accompanying anchored money solving problems. Problems may require students to interact with other students in the class or with the teacher. An example of an anchored money problem solving scenario follows:

Macey has been saving her allowance for seven weeks. She has a saving goal of $20.00. Each week she receives $1.50. Three weeks ago, Macey decided to buy her sister a rubber ball for her birthday which cost $1.00.  She used a loony from her savings . After seven weeks, Macey wanted to exchange all of her quarters for loonies, but she also wanted to keep half a dozen quarters for when she visited the candy machine at the grocery store when she went shopping with her mom.  She knew that several of her classmates had loonies that they could exchange for her quarters. (At this time, go around to your classmates and exchange your quarters for loonies just like Macey wanted to.) Once Macey exchanged her quarters for loonies with her classmates, how many loonies does Macey have? How much money does Macey have all together? How much more money will Macey need to save to reach her saving goal?

Simulation  Activity:

Illuminations –  Coin Box {elementary level}: Initially, direct instruction is required to demonstrate how by clicking on the cent icon in the bottom right corner, the student can see the amount of each coin as they are  US coins and difficult to decipher visually. Direct instruction should also be provided to guide the student to the “Instructions” tab and show the subtitled areas “Modes”. Student can then have time exploring the “Activity” section using the dropdown menu in the top left corner. Student should have ample time to explore all five activities including: “Count”, “Collect”, “Exchange”, “Change from Coins”, and “Change from Value”.

Transfer to ‘Real-Life’ Context: Students should have opportunity to transfer the simulated learning to a real-life context. An example of a real-life context is provided below, however adapting this to uniqueness of the learning community is recommended:

Cookie Sale –  Each student bakes one dozen cookies to sell to classmates and other students at the school. Pricing: 1 cookie = $0.40, 2 cookies = $0.75, 3 cookies = $1.00, 4 cookies = $1.25, 5 cookies = $1.45, 6 cookies = $1.70. This activity allows for assessment by the teacher through observation. Student’s accuracy and ease of providing change could be assessed using a simple checklist. Students should work in pairs  or small groups to help ensure that change to buyer is accurate.

Self Assessment/Reflection: A reflection activity is to be completed by each student. This activity requires the student to reflect on and share about growth and relevancy of learning. A self assessment printable is here:

Self Assessment

Finkelstein, N.D., Perkins, K.K., Adams, W., Kohl, P., Podolefsky, N., & Reid, S. (2005). When learning about the real world is better done virtually: A study of substituting computer simulations for laboratory equipment. Physics Education Research,1(1), 1-8.

Srinivasan, S., Pérez, L.C., Palmer, R.D., Brooks, D.W., Wilson, K., & Fowler, D. (2006). Reality versus simulation. Journal of Science Education and Technology15(2), 137-141. doi: 10.1007/sl0956-006-9007-5

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