Penny Game Overview

In 2017, the Federal Government spent $3,981 billion, collected $3,315 billion, and borrowed $666 billion to cover the deficit.


When using the game boards, each penny will represent 1% or approximately $40 billion of 2017 federal spending.

You should have 83 bare pennies to represent the amount of taxes collected by the government. You should cover 17 pennies with red tape to represent the money borrowed and spent by the government (since 17% less money was collected than spent.)

How to Play:

  • Group players into teams of 4 or 5.
  • Give each team a Penny Bag and a Spending Board.
  • Ask teams to distribute all 100 pennies among the 9 spending categories according to where they think the government spent the money.
  • Get the answers below and read them out. Ask each team to move the correct amounts onto the squares so they can visualize the comparisons.
  • Ask teams to distribute only the bare pennies onto the 4 tax squares of the Income Board according to where students think the taxes came from.
  • When the Income Board is completed, give the correct answers as shown below.

Additional Information

  • The income figures are represented as a percentage of outlays. 2017 income was 83% of outlays, which is another way of saying we had an 17% deficit.
  • The categories for the Penny Game track the official "Functions" breakdown in the federal budget. For more on the definitions of the different budget functions and the programs within each function click here.

Need help conducting The Penny Game? Ask us!

For advice, or to invite a Concord Coalition field representative to support your group, contact us at [email protected].

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