Big Money in Ancient
Today's Snack: A make-at-home pizza is
like the biggest, best coin you ever ate. Of course, you'd never EAT coins -
but you can sure use them to buy yourself yummy food. Today's snack might team
your giant "coin" - pizza - with a giant glass of milk. Can you drink 12 ounces
of milk at one sitting? Measure, and find out!
Roll of shelving paper | Dollar bill
| Colored pencils
Scissors | masking tape or
Have you noticed that a $1 bill is just the same length and width as a
$100 bill? You have to look at the number in the corner to see how much money
each bill actually represents.
Back in ancient China, they had a system that made a little more sense:
The bigger the amount of money that the bill represented, the bigger the
bill itself was.
Something that was really cheap required a very small coin. Something
that was really, really expensive, though, had to be paid with a "bill" that
measured as large as a big piece of construction paper.
The largest bill in the
history of the world, in fact, was the one-kwan note of fourteenth-century
China, which measured 9 inches by 13 inches.
It just goes to show you that "money" is just a system of representing
real value. It has always been that way, since the times that people gave up on
trying to buy and sell with real stuff - a live cow for 100 sacks of corn, or
whatever. Trying to deliver the goods just got to be too inconvenient. So
different systems of coins and bills were developed all over the world.
And China's was famous for a time for having the biggest bills,
physically. The Chinese were also first in the world, in the 10th
Century, to come up with a system of paper money, where one piece of paper
could symbolize a whole lot of monetary value. Now the whole world uses that
kind of symbolism for its money exchanges.
But you can imagine how inconvenient it would get, to always have to have
a bigger and bigger bill representing bigger and bigger amounts of value.
With inflation - the economic effect that makes each dollar "shrink" in
its purchasing power - you might need a bill as big as a house just to buy a
loaf of bread!
But in ancient China, for a while, they were able to make it work. A tiny
coin the size of a seed would buy everyday items like a scoop of rice. For
those occasional huge purchases, such as a house, they would have gigantic
pieces of money. Since they weren't used too often, it wasn't an inconvenience.
And nobody got mixed up!
So let's make the (physically!) biggest bill in the history of America!
Take a roll of blank shelf paper, stretch it out so that it's as long as
the wall of your room or even longer, weigh it down every few feet so it
doesn't curl up on you, and then copy the elements of a regular dollar bill -
only make your giant bill be for a LOT more money than just $1. Show this with
a lot of zeroes, in groups of three, after the "1."
Can you make a zillion-squillion-bazillion dollar bill? How many zeroes?
Whose picture would be on it?
Then decorate the rest of your dollar bill, and display it on your wall,
or take it to a store and good luck trying to spend it.