Grade 9-12

Money is What Money Does

Time: 90 mins,
Updated: April 25 2024,


Students will be able to:

  • Evaluate the characteristics and functions of money by examining Bitcoin as a form of currency.

In this economics lesson, students will research the cryptocurrency Bitcoin to learn about the functions and characteristics of money.



Have students watch the St. Louis Federal Reserve YouTube video: Exploring Economics: What Makes Something Useful as Money? Ask students the following:

  • Why couldn’t Tyrone use the shells as money in the video?
  • What are some of the characteristics of money listed in the video?

Explain that today they are going to learn more about the functions and characteristics of money.


After students have completed the warm-up, briefly define the functions and characteristics of money on the checklist. Distribute copies of Money Checklist to the class. Give students time to read through the checklist before moving on to the individual activity for students.

Individual Activity

After handing out the checklists to students, play the What is Bitcoin? YouTube video. Then, play the Making Sen$e with Paul Solman: Bitcoin gains mainstream interest video. Students should fill out the Functions and Characteristics on the Money Checklist while watching both videos. Discuss students’ answers to see if there are any discrepancies among the class.

Group Activity

After students complete the individual activity, introduce the group jigsaw activity. Play the YouTube video The Jigsaw Method to help illustrate how jigsaw groupings work. Begin by reading the first paragraph of the Page One Economics article Bitcoin: Money or Financial Investment? as a class.  Then, break up the class into groups of three. Assign each group member one section of the reading.  Sections include: Is Bitcoin Money?, Is Bitcoin a Financial Investment? and Conclusion.  Have each of the group members pair up with members of the others groups assigned to their same section of the reading. They should work together to read the section and summarize the key points.

Give students 5-10 minutes to do this.  Have each group of 3 get back together and review their portion with each other.  Then have the group of 3 answer the 8 provided multiple choice questions that accompany the Page One Economics article together.


Have students complete an exit ticket on a piece of a paper or in their notebook. Use the following questions:

  • What function of money do you think is most important?
  • Explain why.


Activity 1

Print off an additional copy of the Functions and Characteristics of Money Checklist for each student.  Have the students read the PBS Nova: History of Money article. After students have read the article, have them pick one form of currency used throughout history discussed in the article and fill out the checklist to see if that form of currency satisfies the functions and characteristics of money.