The Number Thirteen

October 2, 2017

By Dr. Paul E. Binford
President, Mississippi Council of the Social Studies

Begin your next class by handing out a dollar bill to every student as they enter the classroom. Also, have posted on the screen a slide with this question: “How many thirteen’s can you find?”

Next, set a timer for three minutes and instruct students to list on a sheet of paper as many “thirteen’s” as they can find on the reverse side of the dollar bill?


When time has expired, ask for student volunteers to identify a grouping of thirteen that they found. Answers should include:

13 Olives
13 Leaves
13 Arrows in the Eagle’s Tallon
13 Stars above the Eagle’s head
13 Bars on the Shield
13 Steps/Levels on the Pyramid
13 letters in E Pluribus Unum (“Out of many one”)
13 letters in Annuet Coeptis (“God has favored our undertakings”)

Allow the student who identified the most groupings to keep the dollar bill while collecting the dollars from the remaining students to use with the next class period.

Extension: Ask students why the number thirteen is important in US history or ask students to identify the thirteen colonies/the original thirteen states: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia.

Finally, ask students which Ancient Egyptian god is symbolized by the eye above the pyramid? (Answer: The Eye of Horus, which symbolized protection and health.)

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