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"How Smart Are YOU With Money?"

Shel Silverstein's poem, Smart, will tickle your student's funnybones and teach lessons about the value of money at the same time! A printable Adobe .pdf file of the poem below is provided for classroom use.

Students will reason and logically come to understand the value of money

Materials Needed:

  • A copy of the poem, Smart, by Shel Silverstein
  • Play or real coins for students to use as manipulatives


  • The poem is read aloud by the teacher.
  • Teacher and students reread the poem together.
  • Teacher encourages student discussion of the poem. Did the boy get a good deal? What was wrong with his logic?
  • Teacher reads poem aloud again, a stanza at a time. Students determine the amount of money the boy in the poem has by acting out the "swap" described in the poem with coin manipulatives and comparing the amounts.


  • Ask students to find out how much money the boy in the poem loses after each transaction. (For example: "And just 'cause he can't see...He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,...And four is more than three!" The boy lost 10 cents.)
  • Students respond in writing to the prompt: "Did the boy in the poem get a good deal?"
  • Students write and explanation as to how the boy in the poem lost money.


My dad gave me one dollar bill
'Cause I'm his smartest son,
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
'Cause two is more than one!
And then I took the quarters
And traded them to Lou
For three dimes -- I guess he don't know
That three is more than two!
Just then, along came old blind Bates
And just 'cause he can't see
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!
And I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the seed-feed store,
And the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad,
And he got red in the cheeks
And closed his eyes and shook his head--
Too proud of me to speak!

- Shel Silverstein