Teaching Economics with Children’s Literature: My Rows and Piles of Coins


My Rows and Piles of Coins written by Tololwa M. Mellel and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis is set in Tanzania in the 1960s and tells a story of helping loved ones and saving money.  It was awarded the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000.

My Rows and Piles of Coins tells a story of a Tanzanian boy, Saruni, who helps his mother at the market.  In turn, she rewards him with ten coins for his help.  Instead of purchasing a toy or food at the market, Saruni puts his coins in a money box and counts them each night.  He hopes to purchase a bicycle in order to help his mother run errands and bring larger loads to the market.

“I emptied the box, arranged all the coins in piles and the piles into rows.  Then I counted the coins and thought about the bicycle I longed to buy.” (Mollel 1999, p. 11)

Curriculum Connections:
My Rows and Piles of Coins lends itself nicely to the discussion of earning and saving money, helping others, and making decisions about wants versus needs.  This book correlates well with the Virginia History and Social Sciences Standards of Learning K.7, 1.8, 1.9, 2.9, and 3.9.  It is appropriate for all elementary school grades.  My Rows and Piles of Coins could also be used in a math lesson about money.

Additional Resources:
Where’s the Best Buy Activity: This is an interactive game that encourages children to select the best price for a toy from three different options.

Piggy Bank Wrapper: This sheet is provided by the American Savings Education Council.  It is a wrapper that can help students turn a coffee can into a piggy bank.  The wrapper has space for children to write their name, the item they are saving for, and the amount of money they hope to save.

Piggy Banking: This is another interactive game.  Students are asked to perform tasks and are then paid for their effort.  Students must count coins to deposit in their piggy bank as well.

Want Versus Need Lesson Plan: This lesson plan uses the book The Rag Coat by Lauren Mills.  Students work in groups to cut out pictures from magazines and categorize items according to wants versus needs.

General Information:
Book: My Rows and Piles of Coins
Author: Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrator: E. B. Lewis
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: August 1999
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 1-5
ISBN-10: 0395751861
ISBN-13: 978-0395751862

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