A Trillion Dollars in Your Pocket

A Trillion Dollars in Your Pocket

October 4, 2014

Of all the things you can buy, buying trillions of dollars that can’t be spent on anything might be the weirdest. But sure enough, on Amazon and other sites you can buy old money from Zimbabwe, a trillion dollars at a time. Every country has its own unit of money, called currency (dollars in the US, pounds in Great Britain, and so on). If a country has big problems that make other countries worried, its currency can lose a lot of value even day by day; maybe a dollar can buy a burger today but only a candy bar tomorrow. That’s what happened in Zimbabwe in 2009, where a single dollar had so little value that they needed bills for 1 trillion and even 100 trillion dollars. A trillion is a million millions, and might have bought only a candy bar! Eventually Zimbabwe gave up on this money and printed a new kind, but those old trillion dollar bills are still floating around. If you buy one, you can tell your friends you’re a trillionaire, and that feels good even if you can’t buy anything with it.

Wee ones: Which number is the biggest, 10, 100 or 1,000?

Little kids: Just as you can add 2 apples and 2 apples, you can add 200 and 200, or 2,000 and 2,000. What’s 2 trillion plus 2 trillion? Bonus: If you had 8 trillion dollars but needed 3 trillion more to buy a bicycle, how much did a bike cost?

Big kids: Do you know how to write 1 million as a numbers? Bonus: If a trillion is a million times a million, how do you write 1 trillion? (Reminder: When you multiply numbers ending in zeros, the answer adds the total zeros, since each one multiplies the number by another 10.)




Wee ones: 1,000 (one thousand).

Little kids: 4 trillion. Bonus: 11 trillion dollars.

Big kids: 1,000,000 (six zeros). Bonus: 1,000,000,000,000.

And thank you to Joel G. for sharing this topic with us!

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About the Author

Laura Overdeck

Laura Overdeck

Laura Bilodeau Overdeck is founder and president of Bedtime Math Foundation. Her goal is to make math as playful for kids as it was for her when she was a child. Her mom had Laura baking before she could walk, and her dad had her using power tools at a very unsafe age, measuring lengths, widths and angles in the process. Armed with this early love of numbers, Laura went on to get a BA in astrophysics from Princeton University, and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business; she continues to star-gaze today. Laura’s other interests include her three lively children, chocolate, extreme vehicles, and Lego Mindstorms.

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