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In 2013, it cost the U.S. Mint about 1.8 cents to produce a penny. And yet, the face value of a penny is just one cent. So which one of these is a better measure of a penny’s worth…and how much is money worth, period?

In this lesson, students apply operations on rational and decimal numbers to calculate how much the U.S. Mint spends on different coins. They also talk about what might happen if we got rid of some of our coins, and discuss what the value of money actually is if it isn’t tied to something physical.

Students will

  • Convert rational numbers to decimals to approximate the cost to produce different coins
  • Calculate the total seigniorage (value minus cost to produce) for coins minted in 2013
  • Discuss Canada’s decision to get rid of the penny
  • Round prices to the nearest nickel to explore how purchasing would be different with no pennies
  • Learn about the gold standard, and talk about what money means when it isn’t tied to anything physical

Before you begin

Students should be able to perform arithmetic on multi-digit whole numbers and decimal numbers.

Common Core Standards

Content Standards
Mathematical Practices


The West Wing, Canada