Dollar for your thoughts

Students will examine currency from the Revolutionary War era. Students will discuss pros/cons of using paper currency for interstate trading.

Lesson Objective

Students will be able to discuss the pros/cons of using paper currency during the Revolutionary War Era by examining the currency in small groups.



  1. Have students activate their prior knowledge by brainstorming what a dollar bill is used for in today’s society. Ask them questions like: What is it currently used for? Is it used differently in Maryland vs. California? Hand out to each person, “A Dollar For Your Thoughts” worksheet. Give each group (x) a dollar bill. Have them complete Part 1.
  2. Discuss answers to Part 1 with the class.
  3. Split students into pairs and pass out sample currency. Pass out one hand lens to each student. Have students analyze the sample currency from their colony. Have the students complete Part 2 of the analyzing currency activity.
  4. After students complete the analyzing currency activity, ask them to stand up and try and trade their currency with other groups. Give them 5-7 minutes to do this. Have them complete Part 3 after they have finished.
  5. After the trading simulation, have students discuss the problems/concerns with trying to trade currency of different values from different colonies (pence, dollars, shillings, etc). Some sample questions for the discussion are: – Sourcing: Who created the money? It is reliable? Could it be counterfeited?Close Reading: What do you notice about your colonies money? What could you infer? What type of language is used? What value does the money hold?Contextualization: What events caused the creation of colonial money? What problems did you encounter when trying to trade currency with other colonies?


Give the students an exit card, Attachment C, asking them, “What problems did you encounter when trying to trade currency with other colonies? Do you think colonists encountered similar problems? Why or why not?”


“Revolutionary Money.” Smithsonian Education. (accessed August 28, 2011).