#1-Four Coins = 83 Cents

In Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything, my grandfather Gumpy gave me a math problem while he was tapping his fingers together. Here’s what it was:

“Let’s say (tap, tap) there’s eighty-three cents in my pocket,” he said. “What’s the fewest number of coins I could have?”

“United States coins?” I asked.

He nodded (tap, tap).

I thought for a few seconds and answered, “Four.”

His forehead wrinkled up like he was surprised at me. “Nope. Six. A half-dollar, a quarter, a nickel, and three pennies.”

But I proved I was right . . . and he was amazed.

Did you figure it out?

Most kids think the correct answer is seven: three quarters, a nickel, and three pennies.

massachusetts-quarter newyork-quarter

But that’s wrong because most kids don’t even think about a half dollar because they usually never see one. (I can’t remember the last time I held a half dollar!) But Gumpy knew about half dollars. That’s why he thought the answer was six.

So why is the correct answer four coins? Because in the 19th Century—at two different times, 1851-1873 and 1865-1889—the United States minted three-cent coins. I learned that when I was researching the 1909 Lincoln Cent that Georgie and I found in his basement.

I have never seen a three-cent coin for real.

If you want to try to puzzle your family and friends with questions like this, you need to know that the United States also had twenty-cent, two-cent, and half-cent coins.

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Update: Look what I got in the mail!

Here’s what was in the letter.  I made the image much, much larger so the details are visible. You can see that it’s not the same as the three-cent coin above. The USA made two different designs in the 19th century. And now I actually own one. How cool is that?!


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Comments from my Readers & Friends

    • Dear Cheesie Mack,I think your books are great and I think I have another hint to the problem in book one your Grumpy gave you, he was tapping his fingers four times and that is what I thought before I came to your website for the first time. I also think you should have some games on this site because sometimes I might want to see what you look like and what your life is like. How come you invite yourself over to eat? I think that tuna fish sandwiches are delious.
      Your favorite reader,
      P.S eat your corn

  1. hi i found a coin in a big box at my nonnies house andit was from either from 18161 or 1863 sorry i dont have a picture of it but when i get one ill show you and actully yu visited my school today,Christa McAuliffe it wa very fun thank you

    from jamie

  2. Hi, Cheesie! I really like your splenderful (splendid plus wonderful) first book! I found two pennies! (or Lincon cents!) I tried to look closely at them, and guess what I saw! A very tiny VDB! I know that you (or maybe Glenora Jean Prott) said in your first book, Cheesie Mack is Not a Genius or Anything, That those coins are very valuable! But they look kind of rusted. Should I keep them or sell them?

  3. Hey,Cheesie, my sister has 10 half-dollar coins! By the way, she has a messed up room! Also at my school we take AR tests, on books, and I made 100% on my test I made on your book! My sister likes you, and she’s in 6th grade, plus you live all the way up in Massachusetts!(I don’t remember when you told me, but I don’t know where you live. I spelled Massachusetts right the 1st time!) And my cat just blooped(mixture of bloped and pooped, I don’t really know why my sister thought of that) on my foot and now it is numb.