Practical Mathgic

Hello! I hope you have been enjoying your three day weekend! I know I have! Before we left for the weekend, I did some MLK Jr. activities with my students, and I uploaded a Valentine's Craftivity to TPT, which you can find here, but what I want to share with you is something I'm calling Practical Math-gic. 

I do a Problem of the Day every morning as my 3rd and 4th grade class walks in the door.  I meet with their classroom teachers regularly to see where they need help, and most of the time, they tell me "word problems!"  In doing so, I noticed that most of my students have very little money sense.  They have gotten SO good at finding the key words in the problem, but when it comes to money, they seem to get themselves all tangled up. 

Around Christmas I did a clean-out of my room and found some plastic fruit I had inherited from a former teacher, so I put it aside with a Post-it that said, "Use in money lesson." Friday was my chance! We had a half day and shortened periods, so it was the perfect time for a little bit of class grocery shopping. 

First, I set prices for each food item and displayed it on my projector.  I made sure to use numbers some of them would have an easy time with, and some more challenging numbers as well. 

Then, I displayed my wares in the front of the room.

When my students came in, I separated them into shoppers and cashiers, and gave each a pile of money. I only gave coins to the cashiers, since they were sitting at the desks and I knew that would be easier to handle. I told them they had a certain amount of money to spend, and they each had to choose three items. Then, they were off!

Some students bought one item, made sure they had enough money, then went back for more.

It was amazing to hear them speaking in money/math talk! "Come to me, I'll make you a deal!" said one super-smart student.  "No deals allowed!" I yelled.  Students who normally don't interact because of social issues were exchanging money and ideas, and all the while, they were doing math! It was amazing. 

Mid-way through, I pulled out a Daily 5 technique and "checked in" with the students who had shopped and the cashiers who had given change.  "Show me how you did."  Some had trouble doing math under pressure, some were indecisive about spending money.  I have one student who is a spendthrift, and wanted to keep his fake money and not spend any at all.  After checking in, we switched shoppers and cashiers.

I marked up my prices.  A tomato cost $2.95

He's checking the prices to make sure he did his math right.  I love it!
My students love Class Grocery Store day- they think it's a game.  I love Class Grocery Store day, because I know they are learning practical, hands-on, valuable skills that they will need later in life.  What practical skills do you teach in your classroom?



  1. Hi Maria, I'm your newest follower! I love your ideas. It's always great when you can find a non-threatening activity that lets the shier kids shine :)


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