Coming Up Short

Grade: 2 or 3
Class Time: 1 hr.

Focus: The teacher pulls out some money and starts counting it to him/herself. Ignoring the students, the teacher should use a calculator to do some imaginary figuring. Hopefully the students will take the bait and ask what you are doing.
Outcome: Students will realize that no one has the resources to meet all of their wants.
Objectives: Students will calculate the amount of goods and services they can buy based on a given amount of money. Students will recognize that they cannot always buy all that they want because of limited resources.
Core Competencies: Counting, estimation, using money, problem solving,
understanding limited resources.
1. Explain that you want to go by the store after school and buy some 2 liter bottles of soda for your family. You need to buy at least four bottles, but you only have $3.50. Inform the students that you saw the soda on sale at the supermarket for $1.00 a bottle. Invite a student to go to the chalkboard to do the calculations required to solve the problem.
2. Ask the students to help solve the problem. Have the student at the chalkboard draw four bottles on the board and label each one $1. Calculate the price.
3. Discuss: What is the problem? (You don’t have enough money.) Tell the students that you have $3.50. Won’t that be enough? Why or why not? What am I going to have to do?
4. Teach the students that because you only have so much money you cannot buy everything you want. Introduce the terms “limited” and “resources” to the students and note that because you have a limited amount of resources, you can only purchase three bottles of soda. Use Big Button Calculator to figure problem.
5. Have students make up some problems. Work several problems together on board, then have students work independently. Write problem and solutions in students’ journals.
6. Students can draw pictures to illustrate their problems, or paste paper manipuitives in journal.
7. Have six stations set up in the room of goods and services that the students ‘WANT” to buy. Give each student an index card with an amount on it that will serve as all the money they own. Tell the students that this is their “Resource Card.” They can spend no more than what is on the card. (Note: Cards should be set up in even amounts that are familiar to students and easy, yet challenging, for them to work.)
8. Each student is to then travel from station to station. Their goal is to buy as much of a particular good or service as possible at each station without spending more than their “Resource Card” will allow. This is not accumulative. The student should spend the maximum amount at each station.
9. The students should record their findings on the card and return them for evaluation.
10. The student should write this statement on the back of their Resource Card and fill in the blank: “I cannot buy everything I want because I have (limited resources!).
Materials/Resources: Big button calculators, student writing journals, resource cards, paper and pencils.
Evaluation: Resource cards, journal, class discussion.
Extensions: Have more able students write problems for each other or another class.
Vocabulary: Goods and services, wants, limited resources
Related Skills: Addition and subtraction, basic calculator skills, problem solving.
Source: Berry, Jason and Murphy, Carole (1995). Elem. Educ. 253, Social Studies Methods, Univ. of Mo., St. Louis.