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Education Resources


What is Money? Resources

Middle School

Escape from Barter Islands
Why do we have money? Think about a dollar bill: if you're hungry, you can't eat it, and in a rainstorm, it won't keep you dry—but you can trade it for an apple or an umbrella. If you lived in a world without money, how would you get the things you want and need? This interactive online game teaches the concepts of barter and trade.

Abraham Lincoln and the Five-Dollar Note Lesson PDF icon
In this lesson, students complete a puzzle designed to lead them through identifying leadership characteristics that Abraham Lincoln possessed. They review the changes in the redesigned $5 note and consider how Lincoln's leadership characteristics helped get him pictured on the $5 note. Students look at a timeline of Lincoln's life and identify significant events in his road to the White House.

American Currency Exhibit
Money hasn't always looked like it does today. Explore the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's American Currency Exhibit online and watch history come alive as you step back in time to our nation's beginning. Learn how our country's rich history is closely tied with our currency. Discover the role the Federal Reserve has played—and continues to play—in that history.

Symbols on American MoneyPDF icon
This booklet describes and explains the various images and symbols that have appeared on U.S. currency over the years.

Currency and the FedPDF icon
Students consider who is pictured on the different denominations of U.S. currency and why. They participate in an activity to identify functions of basic, everyday items and then identify and explain the functions of another basic, everyday item—money. Students learn fundamental facts about money as well as some essentials about the Federal Reserve System.

Why Money?PDF icon
Students participate in a trading simulation to learn about barter and the benefits of using money. Working in pairs, students receive information cards on different forms of money used during U.S. history and identify specific problems with each form based on the characteristics of money and how they fell short.

Money Museum Lessons
These lessons focus on the Federal Reserve as the nation's central bank as well as on commercial banks and why both types of banks are important to the U.S. economy.

High School

Benjamin Franklin and the Birth of a Paper Economy (Publication)PDF icon
Based on a lecture given by Professor Farley Grubb, this booklet tells readers about Benjamin Franklin's role in the debate over devising a system of paper money in the colonies and his monetary philosophy.

Benjamin Franklin and the Birth of a Paper Economy (Lesson Plan)PDF icon
In this lesson, which accompanies the booklet of the same name, students learn about Benjamin Franklin's role in the shaping of the role of money in the economy. By participating in a trading activity, students learn the role of money in the colonial economy. Other concepts include bartering, the characteristics of money, and the functions of money and inflation.

American Currency Exhibit
Money hasn't always looked like it does today. Explore the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco's American Currency Exhibit online and watch history come alive as you step back in time to our nation's beginning. Learn how our country's rich history is closely tied with our currency. Discover the role the Federal Reserve has played—and continues to play—in that history.

Symbols on American MoneyPDF icon
This booklet describes and explains the various images and symbols that have been used on U.S. currency over the years.

Discover Historic Currency
How has U.S. paper money changed? Throughout history, the nation's currency has been imprinted with many historic people, places, and symbols. Learn about our past while discovering the artistry of our currency designs over the years.

Explore Money from Around the World
What tales can money tell? Learn about different cultures, journey through various landscapes, and meet heroes—all by examining a country's currency. Find out which country's money honors a great chess champion, which depicts the dangerous sport of land diving, which honors its population's diversity—and much more!

Money Museum LessonsPDF icon
These lessons focus on the Federal Reserve Bank and how it helps to control the growth of the U.S. money supply.