The Truth about the Tooth-fairy

At breakfast today, Rory asked me: “Why don’t I get $10 a tooth like my friend Gavin?”.


Well, after I finished choking on my coffee, I tried to think of some reasons that were more kid-friendly than my initial thought: “their tooth-fairy is on drugs!”. Here are some of the ones I thought about:

  • The tooth-fairy likes Gavin better?
  • Your teeth are smaller?
  • Your teeth aren’t as clean?
  • Your tooth-fairy is paid less than their tooth-fairy?
  • Your teeth are too young / too old?
  • Your tooth-fairy didn’t pay attention in math class and doesn’t know the difference between a toonie and a ten dollar bill?????????

Then I realized this was a teachable moment….a math teachable moment!

Rory can count by 10’s, so I asked him to figure out how much money Gavin will get for all of his teeth. Well, there are 20 baby teeth and if Gavin gets $10 for each one:

10, 20, 30, 40…. He’ll get a whopping TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS!

Now Rory averages $1 a tooth, so how much does he get?

1, 2, 3, …TWENTY DOLLARS! How do I explain to a 6 year old, the huge discrepancy?!

Now Rory did get $2 each for his big teeth. So now I asked him to count by 2’s and see how much he would receive if all of his teeth were worth $2:

2, 4, 6, 8,……$40…a little better. But nothing compared to $200. Rory is now pretty convinced that the tooth-fairy isn’t playing fair!

Oliver lost a tooth as well, but he got $5 for it. It was pulled out, so we reasoned that the tooth-fairy paid extra because the root was still attached! Well now, think of all the extensions! _DSC0181 (2)

  • If you have 1 tooth pulled and lose the rest normally at $1 a tooth, how much money will you get?
  • If you had 2 teeth pulled and 2 big teeth for $2 and the rest of the teeth for $1, how much money will you get?
  • What is the difference between the different options?
  • Would you prefer to get 2 teeth pulled or 5 teeth paid at $2? Why?!

Think of all the variations! This is real-life, authentic, familiar, exciting and the kid is financially invested!! What’s more motivating than that?! And what are they doing?


Of course, after all this, my husband pipes in, that Rory should figure out what percentage of Gavin’s money he is receiving? And I of course, wanted to extend that even further, to see if there is a correlation between that, and the difference in the salaries, of their tooth-fairy compared to ours.  Then I thought that might be a little too advanced for Grade One!

So we had a great math conversation. We covered skip counting, addition, subtraction, pre-algebra, financial literacy and math reasoning all before our pancakes were even eaten! But, I still don’t know how to explain the reason Gavin gets more money! If you have any suggestions, let me know!

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