Money Talks

Jeff P. M. Au, Kogakkan University

Quick Guide

  • Keywords: Games, minimal pairs, numbers
  • Learner English level: High Beginner to Intermediate
  • Learner maturity: Elementary to adult
  • Preparation time: 5 minutes
  • Activity time: 15-20 minutes
  • Materials: Japanese yen (a denomination of each note and coin), whiteboard, markers

Many of my former university freshmen had conversational level English, but had a tendency to become confused with numbers. Some of them even had TOEIC scores above 500, but they still lacked confidence in saying numbers in English. This activity allows students to practice speaking numbers with something everybody uses on a consistent basis: money. If possible, try to use real money as I found students preferred the tangibility of it rather than just pictures in class.


Step 1: Have a denomination of each yen amount on hand from 1 to 10,000 yen. 


Step 1: Practice saying various amounts of yen in unison while showing the class the appropriate denomination, whether it be a note or coin. 

Step 2: Have the students make three lines (i.e., three teams).

Step 3: One student from each team comes up to the whiteboard with a marker.

Step 4: The teacher stands at the back of the room and shows a denomination to the class, while making sure the three students in front of the whiteboard do not look behind. All of the other students have to look at the teacher and say the correct amount. Perform a demonstration so that the students know how to play the game and are more comfortable with saying the amounts of yen in English.

Step 5: The student that writes the correct amount on the whiteboard the fastest receives one point for their team. The team with the most number of points at the end of the activity wins.

Step 6: Review denominations at the end with the students.

Step 7: Pick students to choose random denominations to test the class!


This activity can be used many times over the course of a year to increase speed and retention in saying numbers. For higher level students, you can combine denominations to make more complex numbers. You may also want to bring currencies from other countries and have students practice speaking the amounts and names of these other currencies. Using this variant of the activity, I noticed in one of my classes that besides the Japanese yen, students only knew about the United States dollar at the start of the year. By the end of the year, students were able to say not only the amounts quickly and correctly, but the names of other world currencies as well. This activity was especially beneficial to the students who traveled to foreign countries.