Last week, I gave the students in my class $1000. Not $1000 real dollars of course. I actually let them choose to have $1000 or $500 for math project. I had a pile of store flyers. “If you want to shop at Best Buy, you get $1000 to spend. You can’t go over budget, but you can buy anything you want. If you want to shop at the drug store, you can spend $500, but you can still buy anything you want.” We’ve been practicing adding and subtracting 3 digit numbers, and I thought this would be a fun way to work on adding dollar amounts. They worked in groups, and I was pleasantly surprised with the shopping choices they made. Of course they bought a lot of technology and electronics. They remembered to round though, which helped them stay close to budget using mental math. One group realized right away that spending $999.99 on a TV wasn’t a good idea because it took their entire budget. “Then we can’t buy anything else!”
Yesterday, I gave them new flyers. “You’ll be working alone this time. I’m not going to give you a budget, but you can only buy 5 things. No more than 5, no less than 5. Five things!” I gave them mostly grocery store flyers so the numbers were manageable for everyone. I loved watching them carefully do their shopping. “I’m looking for things that don’t have any cents because they are easier to add – like ‘2 for $5’ is easy to add for me.” One person was still going for the favoured treats without thinking about price. “I don’t care if this is hard to add. I love Doritos and I’m getting them!” Many of them were noticing the good deals they could get. “6 x 710ml for $2.99? So I get 6 big Pepsi for just $3? That’s a great deal!”
Besides the real life math skills involved, I was also able to cover several curriculum expectations for the Media Literacy strand of our curriculum. They were noticing the fine print, they were recognizing that %15 off isn’t that much off, but still might make something a good deal, and they were thinking critically about the value of their purchases.
I love this “2 birds, 1 stone” kind of teaching.