Lesson 3.4: Social Studies Connection

Learn More

Discounting Pennies

Have you ever heard someone say, “A penny for your thoughts?” Someday, that old saying may have to be changed to “a nickel for your thoughts.”

Representative Jim Kolbe of Arizona said that a penny has “virtually no value.” He wanted stores to stop using the penny. Kolbe introduced a bill in Congress that would require stores to round prices to the nearest nickel. He said that most people don't usually use their pennies — they just toss them aside.

However, critics disagreed with Kolbe. They argued that without pennies, people would have to pay more for many things they buy. The critics claimed that stores would round most of their prices up, not down.

The penny is the oldest currency made by the U.S. government. This 1¢-coin was first minted in 1787. Since then, more than 300 billion pennies have been minted.

Word Wise

Seeming to be true, but not really true: When there is virtually nothing in the house to eat, it's time to go shopping.

Someone who judges the value of things: One critic says not to miss the new movie.

The kind of money that is used in a country: A new kind of $20-bill is the latest form of U.S. currency.

Make coins: All U.S. quarters are minted in either Denver or Philadelphia.

Back to Article


The word virtual may make you think of computers. For example, you can have a virtual conversation in a computer chat room. A virtual conversation is like a real conversation, except it is on-line.

Write each of these expressions on a sheet of paper. Then write what you think each means.

  • virtual library
  • virtual community
  • virtual reality

Compare your definitions with a classmate.

Data Hunt

What would shopping be like if we no longer used pennies to buy things?

You will need a store circular to do this project. These paper advertisements are usually found in a Sunday newspaper. You may be able to find a copy of a circular on-line.

Cut out the advertisements for 20 different items. Tape or glue each advertisement to a large piece of paper, leaving room to write beneath each. Below each ad, write:

  • the price of the item, as listed in the circular
  • the price of each item, rounded to the nearest nickel

Now, answer the following questions.

  1. Did you need to change all of the prices? Did you change most of them?
  2. Would people spend more money or less money on the items in your circular if pennies were no longer used?