10 Token Economy Examples (For Teachers) (2022) (2022)

10 Token Economy Examples (For Teachers) (2022) (1)

A token economy is a behavior modification technique that uses rewards (tokens) as reinforcers to shape behavior. The tokens can be exchanged later for other reinforcers that are highly appealing to the recipients.

By reinforcing desired behaviors with tokens, the student is more likely to exhibit that behavior again. This is based on the principles of operant conditioning and has many uses in an educational setting.

Token economies are often used with students that have special needs or behavioral disorders.

By giving a token to a student whenever they display a target behavior, that behavior is strengthened and therefore more likely to occur again.

Definition of Token Economy

Token economies were quite popular at one time, but interest has waned over the years. This is surprising because they have proven quite useful for special needs students.

As Matson and Boisjoli profess,

“One of the most important technologies of behaviour modifiers and applied behaviour analysts over the last 40 years has been the token economy” (2009, p. 240).

Some concerns about token economies have to do with the ethics of “controlling” students. Another criticism is that students may become dependent on external rewards, instead of being intrinsically motivated to learn or engage in the target behavior.

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However, by not being over-reliant on a token economy, using an intermittent schedule of rewards, and keeping rewards reasonable, these concerns can be addressed.

Token Economy Examples

1. The Reading Train

A second-grade teacher might use a token economy to encourage reading. Each child gets a colorful poster that shows railroad tracks. The track is divided into small sections, and each time a child reads one book, the teacher will place a sticker of a train on one section.

When the child has read so many books that the track is completely full, they can exchange all of their stickers for a valued prize. Prizes can include small toys, stickers of their favorite Disney character, or any other item that child really likes.

This is a fun way to encourage children to read, even though it may not be their favorite activity.

2. Using a Jigsaw Puzzle to Increase Task Persistence

Starting with a simple 12-piece jigsaw puzzle, each time the child finds the right piece, they get a sticker by their name in the teacher’s notebook. When they have completed the puzzle, they can trade 12 stickers for a small prize.

The next time they play, the teacher uses a slightly more difficult puzzle. Over time, the child will learn the value of persisting and also develop an understanding that frustration is a temporary feeling that can also be overcome.

For younger children, completing a challenging task can be difficult. They become easily frustrated and can want to quit very quickly. However, learning to deal with frustration and be persistent helps build emotional intelligence.

3. The Mini-City and Monetary Tokens

Token economies can teach students the value of money. For example, the teacher can create a mini-city in their classroom.

It can contain scaled-down versions of a real city, such as a Post Office, Hospital, Fire Station, Bakery, etc.

Children can earn pretend money by “working” in different jobs. For example, they can pretend to be bakers and serve customers. Or, they can pretend to be doctors and nurses and take care of patients.

The students earn pretend money depending on how much time they work.

At the end of the day, the students then get to exchange their pretend money for various gifts. This is a great way to teach children the value of work.

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4. Encouraging Helping Behavior

Reinforcing prosocial behavior has always been part of a teacher’s job. So, many schools implement a school-wide program to encourage children to be helpful classmates.

For example, all teachers may carry with them a stack of small circular stickers that say something like “I am helpful” or “I help others”. Whenever a student observes a student engaging in this kind of behavior, they will give that student one of the stickers.

Any teacher can give a sticker to any student, no matter which classroom they are in. Lunchtime or recess are great opportunities to witness these actions.

At the end of the month, or academic term, the school will give students that have obtained a certain number of stickers with a certificate at a school assembly.

This is an example of a token economy on a school-wide basis over a longer period of time.

5. Blast-off Token Board

The younger the student, the more interesting the token economy needs to be. A piece of paper with boxes across the bottom is fine, but not very interesting. So, using a token board that shows a rocket surrounded by 4 or 5 big stars might be more attention-getting of very young learners.

Each time the child displays one of the targeted behaviors, they get to color one of the stars. Of course, they can use any color they want. When all the stars have been colored, then the child can receive a prize or get to do something extra that they like to do, such as spending extra time playing with their favorite toy or getting to be first in line on the way to recess.

6. Animated Token Board

Special education teachers often get to work one-on-one with a student at various points in the day. Getting the attention of these students can be especially challenging. Sometimes stickers are not compelling enough and plastic chips may be a choking hazard.

An animated token board on an iPad or laptop can work perfectly in these situations. Plus, an animated token board is usually very colorful and will often include options that involve movement on the screen or interesting sounds.

Each time the student engages in the targeted behavior, they are rewarded with another funny-looking “monster” character being shown on a school bus or another colorful section of a caterpillar being lit up.

When the school bus is full or when the caterpillar is complete, the student gets a reward of their choice.

7. The Jar System

Stickers on paper are great, but after a while, students might get bored with that kind of display. So, to keep the interest level up, teachers can use a jar system to implement their token economy.

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It’s best not to use a glass jar, for obvious reasons. So, finding a clear plastic jar will keep things safe. You will also need some colorful objects to fill the jar. Pom poms are very colorful and they come in a variety of sizes. So, each child gets their own jar with their name on it.

Each time they engage in the targeted behavior, the teacher puts a pom pom in the jar. Or, the student can put the pom pom in their jar to make it more meaningful and increase student ownership.

Once the jar is full, the student gets to trade their pom poms in for something they really value.

8. The Whiteboard

Using the whiteboard to implement a token economy is one of the easiest ways to increase target behavior. The process is quite simple. The teacher writes each student’s name on the side of the board. Each time a student displays the target behavior, the teacher draws a star next to their name. After a student has 5 stars, they get a prize.

Target behaviors can include raising one’s hand to answer a question instead of speaking out of turn, sitting properly in one’s chair, or finishing a worksheet.

Over time, the teacher can make the reward system more challenging by requiring more stars before receiving the reward.

9. Improving Personal Hygiene

Teaching children in kindergarten to practice good personal hygiene is a top priority. Students often forget to wash their hands after going to the bathroom or brush after meals. They also tend to enjoy playing with the soap dispenser, which can be a bit wasteful.

So, teachers can spend a lot of time and energy trying to shape student behavior to practice good hygiene. A token economy can be very effective.

One system can take place at the doorway between the classroom and bathroom. Once the target behavior has been clearly defined, for example, washing hands without being told, the teacher can stand at the doorway as students exit.

As they leave, each student shows the teacher that their hands have been washed. The teacher then gives the student a token. After a predetermined number of stickers have accumulated, the students can trade their stickers for something else.

10. Picky Eaters and Treats

Some younger students are very picky eaters. Unfortunately, spending all day at school and not ingesting enough calories is bad for a child’s development, and doesn’t do much for parents either. Implementing a token economy centered on food consumption can produce very meaningful results.

It works like this: find a treat the picky eater really enjoys. At lunchtime, explain that you are going to play “a game”. If they take two small bites of their food, they will get one plastic chip. When they have 3 chips, they can trade it for one treat (use a very small portion of that treat).

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You should notice a quick change in the child’s food consumption. After one or two weeks, increase the number of chips they need to accumulate before they can be exchanged for the treat.

Note: Don’t start with food the child likes least. It’s better to have an early success than an early failure.


The token economy is a useful system for shaping students’ behavior and developing conditioned responses from students. The use of a conditioned stimulus can be applied to a wide range of behaviors, from those found in a regular classroom setting, to one-on-one use with special needs students.

The system can be implemented to increase helping behavior, hygiene practices, reading, task persistence, and even raising one’s hand and waiting for your turn to speak.

The simplest versions of a token economy need only to consist of a whiteboard and marker, or a piece of paper with a colorful illustration of a train or caterpillar. More visually captivating versions can include a plastic jar with colorful pom poms, or a dynamic APP for an iPad that also makes interesting sounds.

The token economy is versatile and effective.


Kim, J.Y., Fienup, D., Oh, A., & Wang, Y. (2021). Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Token Economy Practices in K-5 Educational Settings, 2000 to 2019. Behavior Modification. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/01454455211058077

Matson, J. & Boisjoli, J.A. (2009). The token economy for children with intellectual disability and/or autism: A review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 30, 240-248. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2008.04.001

Shogren, K. A., Lang, R., Machalicek, W., Rispoli, M., & O’Reilly, M. (2011). Self-versus teacher management of behavior for elementary school students with Asperger Syndrome: Impact on classroom behavior. Journal of Positive Interventions, 13(2), 87-96.

Tarbox, R., Ghezzia, P., & Wilson G. (2004). The effects of token reinforcement on attending in a young child with autism. Behavioural Interventions, 21, 156-164. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/bin.213


What are examples of token economy? ›

An example of a token economy is a chip reward system. In a classroom, teachers can reward students for demonstrating the desired behavior through earning a token or a chip. The chips or tokens can be exchanged for a prize the student wants.

How do you use a token economy system in the classroom? ›

A classroom token economy is one positive reinforcement system that works for many teachers and students alike.
Establishing a Token Economy in the Classroom
  1. Choose Tokens. ...
  2. Determine Tracking. ...
  3. Assign Values. ...
  4. Determine Rewards. ...
  5. Teach Students. ...
  6. Reward Frequently and Consistently.
Jun 1, 2022

How does a token economy system work? ›

One effective method of reinforcement is the use of “token economies.” Token economies have three major components: 1) a behavior or behaviors someone needs to exhibit; 2) tokens or points earned for engaging in those behaviors; and 3) exchanging tokens or points for a choice of reinforcing rewards.

How is a token economy an example of behavior? ›

How does a token economy work? The premise of a token economy is that a child can earn a certain number of tokens by exhibiting desired behaviors. For example, a child may be required to earn 5 tokens which can be exchanged for a larger and more preferred item.

Is money a token economy? ›

Money is a type of Token

For a classroom token economy, a child will go to school, complete academic tasks to earn tokens and then spend these tokens for back-up reinforcers.

What six characteristics should a token have? ›

What six characteristics should a token have? Tokens should be attractive, lightweight, portable, durable, easy to handle, and not easy to counterfeit.

What is one of the most important components of a token economy? ›

What is one of the most important components of a token economy? Using poker chips.

When should you use a token economy? ›

Interventionists create token economy systems that reinforce skills such as academics, communication, self-help, or prosocial behavior (Matson & Boisjoli, 2009). Research supports the use of token economy in various environments including schools, homes, summer camps, and inpatient programs.

What is the first step in a token economy? ›


Step 1. Identify the Target Skill/Behavior. Team members identify a target skill/behavior for a learner with ASD that they would like to increase. 1. Team members define the target skill/behavior in observable and measurable terms.

What are the four basic elements of a token economy? ›

Token Economies: Concept Definition

The type of token. A list of backup reinforcers and the token cost of each. A list of appropriate and inappropriate behavior and the number of tokens awarded or lost for engaging in each. Specific procedures for operation of the token economy.

Which of the following best illustrates a token economy? ›

Which of the following examples best illustrates a token economy? A person gets a small copper disk for certain behavior, and can use that disk to obtain something desired.

What is education token? ›

A token economy is a behavioral strategy that allows children to earn tokens for positive behaviors. Tokens are paired with verbal praise and granted as soon as positive behavior occurs. An example of verbal praise while giving a token is, “Lisa, you did a good job completing your homework. Here is your token.”

What token means? ›

In general, a token is an object that represents something else, such as another object (either physical or virtual), or an abstract concept as, for example, a gift is sometimes referred to as a token of the giver's esteem for the recipient. In computers, there are a number of types of tokens.

How do you introduce a token board? ›

We like to use backwards chaining to teach the token board. Introduce it by having the token board be full except for the last token. As you are about to reinforce a correct response with a primary reinforcer (eg: popcorn), put on the last token and show the child that he gets the popcorn for filling the token board.

Why is token board important? ›

And it's one that you can use at home. A token board is a system that rewards desired behaviors with tokens, which kids can exchange for something they value. It serves as a visual reminder. The one I've used also provides tactile and auditory feedback—it lets kids feel and hear when they make progress.

How do token boards work? ›

A token board is an intentionally designed board that uses the principles of primary and secondary reinforcers to teach concepts and behaviors to children with autism. A primary reinforcer is something that is inherently desired – food or playtime, for example. Children don't need to be taught to want these things.

What is the recommended number of tokens per child for a teacher to have on hand when starting a token economy in a classroom? ›

What is the recommended number of tokens per child for a teacher to have on hand when starting a token economy in a classroom? About 100 tokens per child when starting. It fits it because here, a fine involves the loss of tokens, due to some inappropriate behaviour, which meets the response-cost punishment.

Which statement best describes a token economy? ›

Which statement best describes a token economy? Children are given tokens for engaging in desirable behaviors, which may then be traded for valued objects or activities.

What are the strengths of token economy? ›

Advantages of token economies are that behaviors can be rewarded immediately, rewards are the same for all members of a group, use of punishment (response cost) is less restrictive than other forms of punishment, and individuals can learn skills related to planning for the future.

Why do classroom token economies fail? ›

The reasons for clinical failures of token economies can be somewhat arbitrarily divided into three groups: (1)Problems associated with the token program itself, (2)Problems associated with the teacher, and (3)Problems associated with the specific population on which the classroom token econ- omy is used.

What are token based economics? ›

Token Economies - YouTube

What are the 2 tokens of dual token economy? ›

To keep our dev costs stable we use 2 separate tokens, CENNZ to maintain the security of the network and keep transactions going, then CPAY as the stable gas token used for transaction costs on the network.

What is a tokenized economy? ›

Token economics can be understood as a subset of economics that studies the economic institutions, policies, and ethics of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services that have been tokenized.

What is token economy in Cryptocurrency? ›

In a token economy, blockchain technology is used to take physical assets, digitize them, prove their ownership, and potentially trade them. The same principles apply to tokenizing an asset that is already in digital form.


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