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Donut Dinero

Darri Stephens
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
 55-75 minutes


Have you ever wanted to trade something with someone, but you both couldn't agree on what made a fair trade? Instead of trading what you have for what you want, you can make it easier to buy and sell by creating a system of money where you exchange goods for tokens of different, agreed-upon fixed values. By relating to the Cyberchase kids' dilemma on "Nowhere" in the episode "Trading Places," students will learn how monetary systems are based on a standard unit of value that consequently can be broken down into fractions (to purchase an item of less value than the standard unit) or expanded into multiples (to purchase an item of greater value than the standard unit). These lessons can be related to real world issues children encounter everyday.

Subject Matter

Mathematics and Social Studies

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:
  • Describe the concept of bartering by giving specific examples (current and/or historical).
  • Examine the use of a substance (a donut) as the standard value for developing a monetary system.
  • Create a monetary system based on fractions and multiples of a standard unit.
  • Compare this system to our US monetary system.


From the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Standards, grades 3-5, available online at

NCTM Standards: Measurement, Numbers & Operations, Algebra, Representation The primary NCTM Content Standard for this lesson is Number and Operations.

In grades 3-5 all students should:
  • Recognize and generate equivalent forms of commonly used fractions, decimals, and percents;
  • Use visual models, benchmarks, and equivalent forms to add and subtract commonly used fractions and decimals.

Media Components


Cyberchase # 120: Trading Places

Web sites:

To be used in the Learning Activity:
History of Money
A quick overview of the various forms of currency found throughout history, from 9,000 BC to the present.

To be used in Cross-Curricular Activities:
Kid $ense
These six trivia quizzes challenge children's knowledge of the history of money, the value and design of American money, and their aptitude at solving money word problems.

The United States Mint: h.i.p. pocket change
The Time Machine section allows children to visit various historical periods of Early America and learn about how our monetary system has changed over the years.

Anatomy of a Bill
Take a closer look at the design of the 1996 $100 bill.


For the class: For each student:
  • Paper donut cutouts (1 set/student): 2 chocolate donuts, 12 plain donuts (2 to be cut into fractions)
  • Copies of the Market Flier and the Donut Dinero handouts (see attached)
  • Magazines
  • Plain paper
  • Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Scissors (1 pair/student)
  • Glue