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My Rows and Piles of Coins Free Unit Study

My Rows and Piles of Coins

Author:  Tololwa M. Mollel
Illustrator:  E.B. Lewis
ISBN: 0395751861
Summary: A Tanzanian boy saves his coins to buy a bicycle so that he can help his parents carry goods to market, but then he discovers that in spite of all he has saved, he still does not have enough money.

Unit Study Prepared by Ami Brainerd
Lapbook by Jodi Small
Adverb Flap
I'm Saving (Pocket & Paper)
Vocabulary Matchbooks
Tanzania Flag
Where in the World is Tanzania Shutterfold
Money Equivalents Side by Side
Swahili Language Flap
Interest Flap
Maasai Language Flap (1 student)
Maasai Language Flap (2 students)
How Much Money (1 student)
How Much Money (2 students)
Bible Verse Pocketbook & Strips KJV
Bible Verse Pocketbook & Strips NIV

If your student is interested in studying African animals, be sure to check out our Animal Studies & Lapbooks.

Character Study: Contentment
Saruni sees the "sparkling row" of bicycles-- "one of them was decorated all over with red and blue"-- that's the bicycle he wants.  He works so hard to save his money week after week (if you do the story problem in the math lesson-- it works out to 61 weeks-- that's over a year of saving coins!), but he didn't have enough money.   The bicycle he eventually receives from his dad was probably not sparkly or new.  It doesn't look decorated at all.  Does Saruni complain about the bike not being red and blue?  Is he disappointed now that he has been given a used bike? No!  He is content (satisfied with what he has been given); he is thankful!  He says, "Suddenly, I realized the wonderful thing that had just happened. 'My bicycle, I have my very own bicycle!' didn't matter at all that it wasn't decorated with red and blue."
What a lesson for us!  What a lesson for our students!  Let us learn to be content with what we be satisfied and thankful for what we are given even when it may not be what we were dreaming of.

Memory Verse: Phil. 4:11b "...for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."

Character Study: Selflessness
Many times when we save up our money, we are saving for something for ourselves.  Discuss the following questions with your student:
What is Saruni saving for? (a bicycle) 
Why does he want a bike? (So he can help his mother on market days) 
At the end of the story, after he has a bike, he decides to start saving for something else.  What is it? (a cart)
Why does he want this cart? (if he had a cart to pull behind his bicycle, he could lighten his mother's load). 
Saruni cares much for his mother.  He tries to find ways to make her work easier for her and saves his own money (that he could've spent on toys or yummy treats) to help out.  Discuss selflessness with your student.  In what ways could he help others?  What is he willing to give up in order to aid someone else?

Human Relationships/Emotions: Disappointment
Saruni is so proud of the fact that he has saved his money.  He approaches the man selling bikes and announces that he has, "three hundred and five" coins.  The man laughed at him because bikes cost much more than what Saruni had.  Saruni walks away deeply disappointed (and probably discouraged, too).   Sometimes things happen that are out of our control and we are disappointed.  It's okay to be disappointed, but we should still strive to be content within our circumstances (review memory verse).

When you know that someone is disappointed, you should do as Yeyo did and give them some kind, encouraging words.

Geography:  Tanzania (Africa)
Tanzania is a country on the east coast of Africa bordered by Kenya & Uganda (north); Rwanda, Burundi, & Democratic Republic of the Congo (west); Zambia, Malawi, & Mozambique (south); and the Indian Ocean (east).  The country, formally known as the United Republic of Tanzania is named after Tanganyika (the mainland) and Zanaibar (islands off its east coast).

Learn More About Tanzania (includes a color picture of the flag)
Outline Map of Tanzania
Flag of Tanzania

In the Hands of a Child- Africa Lapbook

Culture: Tanzanian Food
Here are some authentic recipes for you to try as you "visit" Tanzania this week!


2 cups sifted all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, or a mixture of the two
1 teaspoon salt
warm water
cooking oil

All ingredients should be allowed to come to room temperature if they have been in the refrigerator. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Slowly mix in enough water to make a thick dough. Mix in one spoonful oil. Knead dough on a cool surface for a few minutes, adding a few spoonfuls of dry flour. Return dough to the bowl, cover with a clean cloth, and let it rest for thirty minutes. Lightly grease (with cooking oil) and pre-heat a skillet or griddle.

Divide the dough into orange-sized balls. Flatten them into six-inch circles. Fry them in the skillet or griddle, turning once, until each side is golden brown and spotted.

Cover the finished chapatis and place them in a warm oven until they are all done. 


History: Beginnings of Banks
Saruni has a secret money box.  What does your student use to keep his money in?  Many American children have piggy banks.   Ask your student if he knows where you keep your money (of course, I'm assuming you keep it in a bank).  How did banks come into existence?  Banks came into existence because people needed safe places to store their monies.

Words to discuss with your student before going on:
temples-- used for worshipping God (or gods) like a church building
loans-- an amount of money lent for temporary use to a borrower with the expectation of repayment
merchants-- a person who sells goods
deposits-- putting money into a bank account
currency exchange-- trading one country's monetary units in for another country's monetary units

The very first banks were probably the religious temples of the ancient world.  Gold was stored in these temples in the form of compressed plates.  Why would the owners of the plates choose temples to store their gold plates?  They felt as if the temples were safe places as they were constantly attended, well built, and sacred places (hoping that this would keep the thieves out!).  There are records in existence of loans made by temple priests to merchants in 18th Century BC Babylon. 

Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome also hold evidence of banking; in Greece there are records of loans, deposits, currency exchange, and validation of coinage.  In Rome charging interest on loans as well as paying interest on deposits was developed and became competitive.  Banks have stayed in existence not just because people want their money to be safe, but also because they are interested in making money since the bank pays them (an interest rate) to keep their money in the bank.
--Information Source:  Wikipedia

For a fun field trip opportunity, call your local bank and ask if your student can take a tour.

History:  How Money is Made
Coins were invented in 7th century B.C. and have always been made of metal.   Where does metal come from?  Metal has to be extracted from its natural state (usually mined).  Then the metal has to be turned into its required form usually through striking or casting. The western tradition is to strike coins between two engraved dies. The Chinese and Far Eastern tradition was (until the 20th century) to make coins by casting them in moulds.  

Source:  World of Money
Informational Sheet About Money (pdf file)
U.S. Mint Lesson Plans -- do not miss this website!  Lots of great stuff here!

Culture:  Coins from Around the World  (and an Art Activity, too!)
Grab some pocket change or coins you have in your purse and print this PDF file of Coins Around the World, too.
Look at coins from your country.  What are they like?  What pictures are imprinted on them?  Why?  Discuss as age-appropriate.  Now, look at the pictures of coins from around the world (from the printed file).   You may want to grab a globe and look at the different parts of the world each coin comes from.  What are the pictures like?  Can you and your student take an educated guess at why?  (Your older student may want to do further research). 

After you spend time observing all the coins, have your student design her very own coin!  Draw the coin (front and back) or use some clay and etch a design on the front and back.  

Language Arts: Vocabulary

Prepared Vocabulary Crossword Puzzle

to push or drive into something with force
rough or stern in manner, speech, or look
        confusion- a state of disorder
to move or cause to move with a jerky rocking or side-to-side motion
having reached a decision : firmly resolved
to touch or push gently
to grip with or as if with the hand or claws
to make an effort; to try

Language Arts: Foreign Language (Swahili and Maasi)
After the Author's Note on pg. 32, you will find definitions and pronunciations for the following Swahili and Maasi words used throughout the story--
(you may want to discuss/review onomatopoeia and that other languages have their own onomatopoetic words)
Try pronouncing these words with your student and explain to him what each one means.

Language Arts: Part of Speech- Adverbs
Examples of adverbs abound in this story.  You may want to discuss some of the definitions with your student.

An adverb is a word that adds information to a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.  One could say that it "limits" the verb (answering the question where, when, how, how often, or to what extent).  An adverb is usually another form of an adjective (example:  adjective- beautiful; adverb- beautifully).  Often times, we also teach our students that adverbs are commonly spelled with an -ly ending (note: not ALL adverbs have an -ly ending...and not ALL words with -ly endings are adverbs). 

Go-along book about adverbs:  Up, Up, and Away by Ruth Heller

When adverbs answer the question 'WHERE?' they express a relation of PLACE;

here, there, inside, outside, everywhere, southward

When adverbs answer the question 'WHEN?' they express a relation of TIME;

after, before, since, already, soon, then, now

When adverbs answer the question 'HOW?' they express a relation of MANNER;

hard, easily, loudly, quickly, silently, happily, sadly

When adverbs answer the question 'HOW OFTEN?' they express a relation of NUMBER;

always, never, seldom, frequently, once, twice, often

When adverbs answer the question 'TO WHAT EXTENT?' they express a relation of DEGREE;

almost, also, only, very, enough, rather, too

--explanation of adverb questions from

Science: Coffee Trees
The story mentions coffee trees.  Here is a lesson from Newton's Apple that gives a lot of great information and a fun experiment to do!  The website encourages distribution for non-commercial uses, so we've been granted permission to use this here.

Native to Ethiopia, this crop is now grown around the world and is a major commodity in the world economy. The principal species, Coffea arabica, thrives at high elevations in a moist, mild climate where there is partial shade. That's why most of the big coffee producers are located in mountainous countries near the equator.

The coffee tree is a shrub like plant with glossy, dark-green leaves and small, white, fragrant flowers. The fruit, or cherry, is initially green and gradually ripens to a dark red. Although people used to eat the coffee cherries or chew the coffee leaves, the principal interest now is in the coffee seeds or beans.

Removal of the fruit from the beans requires several steps and considerable water because the inner part of the fruit is so sticky. Processors first pulp and wash the cherries, and then allow them to ferment before washing them again. During fermentation, microorganisms act on the sticky inner layer of the cherry to break it down. Finally, the seeds are dried, and a hulling machine crushes the remaining parchment covering so it can be removed. The seeds-now called green coffee beans-can be roasted in several different ways.

To prepare coffee, people brew the ground-roasted beans with hot water, a process that extracts flavor and fragrance chemicals. Only those chemicals that are soluble in hot water dissolve to make the coffee. The coffee grounds are left behind. One chemical naturally present in coffee is caffeine, which is a mild stimulant. But many different chemicals are manufactured by the coffee plant, and other chemicals are created in the roasting process.

Most coffee flavor comes from roasting-green coffee beans smell and taste completely different from roasted ones. Caffeine can be extracted from the beans to make decaffeinated coffee without altering the flavor much, since caffeine itself has very little flavor.

Questions/Topics for further research for your independent student
What are the known effects of caffeine on the human body?
Is caffeine addictive?
Are there medicinal uses for it?
Do soft drinks with caffeine sell better than those without?
What foods contain caffeine?  Add up your daily intake.
Research the decaffeination process
A fruit is the enlarged ovary of a flowering plant, and it encloses the seeds from which a new plant can grow. Coffee cherries are fruits, and fruits all have some similarities. Dissect several fresh fruits. How are they different? How are they similar? Could you tell plants apart based entirely on their fruits?

Experiment: Make an Appealing Fragrance
Flavors and fragrances play a large part in our daily lives. We add spices to food to make it taste and smell good, and put perfume on ourselves to make us more attractive. We tend to avoid unpleasant odors. Most flavors and fragrances are not single chemicals but mixtures of several substances. Coffee is usually blended from various types of beans to obtain a pleasant taste. Experienced coffee tasters can tell where specific kinds of coffee come from just by taste.

Flavor and fragrance experts talk about "notes" of scent-fruity, flowery, aromatic, earthy, musky, and so on. Some odors are unpleasant in large amounts, but smell good in small amounts or when mixed with other scents. Coffee, for example, contains sulfur compounds that are unpleasant by themselves, but that smell pleasant in the aroma of coffee. Most perfumes are specific blends of fragrance notes.


1. Using the mortar and pestle, grind the material you are testing into a pulp.
2. Place the material in the beaker and soak with hot water. Be careful when handling the hot water.
3. After stirring the material in the hot water, set up the funnel with filter paper. Pour the mixture into the filter paper and collect the filtrate (extract) in a screw-top bottle. Label the bottle with the source of the extract. Manufacture as many different extracts as time allows.
4. Mix small portions of various extracts to make new fragrances. Experiment with a variety of combinations. Can you design your own personal fragrance with particular "notes"?
5. Health food stores often sell essential oils from various plants. What other scents would you like to obtain to add to your mixture?

Science: Pruning
This story mentions pruning.  You may want to discuss what pruning is with your student.  Pruning is a method used with trees to cut off dead or diseased leaves and branches.  Sometimes pruning is used to control or direct growth (make something grow in a certain direction or way).  Pruning is also used with flowers and fruit.  By cutting back the growth, the plant increases the yield of flowers or fruit (so you get even MORE fruit and flowers!).   Pruning is important for grape vines.  When certain parts are cut (usually in winter), the shape of the vine can be controlled as well as the quantity and the quality of the fruit. Pruning is also used for decorative reasons for small trees known as Bonsai (you may wish to point some of these trees out to your student the next time you are at a greenhouse or nursery.  You may even want to take one home and let your child try this art form (don't forget to buy some pruning tools!).

Art: Medium- Watercolor
If you have done many art lessons with your student, ask her to identify the medium in the pictures throughout this book.   Let your student practice painting pictures of her choice with her set of watercolors (Prang are the best!). 

See Culture:  Coins from Around the World lesson

Math: Currency
This story provides a great opportunity for you to teach your child the different coin denominations that your monetary system uses.  (I'm in the U.S., so I am going to write my lesson based on our system...feel free to adapt to your own system.)
You may wish to purchase some plastic coins or you can simply use pocket change.   Introduce your student to each coin (penny, nickel, dime, and quarter).
Here are some coloring pages if you are introducing this concept for the first time:
Color U.S. Coins

Label the U.S. Coins

If you feel your student is ready for more information, proceed with the following:
Place a penny in front of your student.  Tell her that a penny = 1 cent.   This is the smallest unit of money in our currency system.
Place a nickel in front of your student.  Tell her that a nickel = 5 cents.  Place five pennies under the nickel.
Place a dime in front of your student.  Tell her that a dime = 10 cents.  Place two nickels under the dime OR ten pennies (or do one and ask your student to find another way to get the coins to equal the amount of the dime.  Another option would be one nickel and five pennies. 
Place a quarter in front of your student.  Tell her that a quarter = 25 cents.  Again, find combos of the other coins that equal the same as one quarter.

You can make the point that if you saved 200 pennies...that would seem like a lot of money!   But, it really only equals $2.00 (this is similar to what happened to Saruni).  However, if you saved 200 dimes...that would be $20.00.  How much would 20 quarters equal?  

How Much Money -- Worksheets from Enchanted Learning

Math: Story Problems
Mother gave Saruni "five whole ten-cent coins"-- how many cents does he have total?

If Saruni had 305 coins and earned 5 coins per week, how many weeks did it take him to earn these coins?

Page 19 shows many rows and piles of coins.   Assuming the piles are in 5's (5 coins per pile), how many coins are there total?  Skip count by 5's with your student to find the answer. 

Math: Saving Money and Interest Rates
Yeyo (Saruni's mother) gave him money and asked him, "...what are you waiting for?  Go and buy yourself something."  What did Saruni choose to do instead of spending the money on food or a toy?  Discuss what your student does when someone gives him some money.  Does he keep it or spend it immediately? 

Activity for an older student:  For your older student who has learned about percents in his math program, perhaps now would be a good time to discuss how money can be saved in a financial institution and how it can earn interest. When we choose to save money and entrust it to a financial institution such as a bank, we can earn interest on it.  When we choose to borrow money from a financial institution, we have to pay EXTRA money on it.   Make up some word problems to determine how much interest would be earned, if he had /x/ dollars earning /y/ interest.   Similarly, make up some word problems to determine how much interest would be paid, if he borrowed /x/ dollars with /y/ interest.

Math Fun:  Play Bank!
You could play monopoly together if your student is old enough.  If not, set up a pretend bank and teach your small student the basics of banking.

Character Study: Stewardship
Stewardship is defined as the conducting, supervising, or managing of something.  What are we (as Christians) called to be good stewards of?  Stewardship is a way for us to show God that we are thankful for the things He has entrusted us with.  Really, we should be good stewards of anything and everything we have been given (including time, talent, and treasure).

Bible Memory Verse Possibility:  Matthew 6:19-21
Discuss this passage with your student and make it your memory verse for the week.

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Bible Story:  The Parable of the Lost Coin
You may want to read and discuss the parable found in Luke 15:8-10 with your student this week.

Additional Resources:
Fifty Money-Making Ideas for Kids by Larry Burkett
Money Matters for Kids by Larry Burkett
Larry Burkett's Money Planner for Kids