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Money        < Previous        Next >

 

 

Money:

Big Money in Ancient China

 

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!

 

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Supplies:

Roll of shelving paper | Dollar bill | Colored pencils

Scissors | masking tape or sticky-tack

 

 

 

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.

 

Chinese fiat paper money in the 1300s

 

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.

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.AfterSchoolTreats.com Money 03 2010

 

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