Materials you will need for this activity:
| Begin the lesson with two pieces of paper on the wall.
On the first sheet of paper, place a large K at the top; on the second
piece, a large W. These two sheets will form 2/3 of a KWL chart. A
KWL chart lists the things that students Know about
a topic in the first column, the things they Want to
know in the second column, and, after the lesson or unit is completed,
the things they Learned in the third column. For
this introductory activity, the class will complete the K and W charts;
the L chart will be completed at the end of the unit.
| Ask students, “What do you know about our system
of money? In particular, what do you know about how money is used
to buy things? At a store, do you give something to get something
in return? When you want something that a neighbor has, do you give
something to her or him to get it?”
| On the K paper, make a list of all the things that
students mention about the currency system. As this list may be quite
extensive, list only the most important ideas that are mentioned.
Since many students will be able to discuss various aspects of money
quite extensively, limit this discussion to 3-5 minutes, depending
on the time you have available. Keep students focused on how money
works (such as, taking out a loan for big purchases) and steer them
away from minutia (like, there are 119 reeds on the circumference
of a quarter).
| When the K chart is filled, say to the students, “Okay,
we’ve made a list of the things you know about money. What other
things about money and trading, also called bartering, do you want
| Make a list of student questions on the W paper. These
questions will serve as a guide during the next several lessons. Note:
Students will ask a lot of questions that you may not know the answer
to, and they will certainly ask questions that are not covered by
the following activities. That’s okay; use their ideas to generate
further lessons or extensions.
|Explain to students that over the next several days,
they are going to learn about bartering, our currency system, and
how money works. In the process, you’ll do your best to help
them answer as many of their questions as you can.
TIP: If you are unfamiliar with KWLs, more information can be found at the following Web sites.
How to Use a KWL Chart
Explanation of KWL Charts
| Learning Activities:
| Activity 1:
Bartering and Currency
Materials you will need for this activity:
|Explain to students that our system of
money is actually a disguised bartering system. Say, “When we
use money, we’re actually trading. Someone gives you $5 to mow
their lawn, or you give someone $3 in exchange for a dozen jelly donuts.
It’s bartering, but instead of trading items, we trade money
for things we need or want. Let’s take a look at how things
might work if we didn’t have money to use to buy things.”
| Use the first part of the CYBERCHASE episode
to introduce the concept of bartering to students. Play the tape until
the café lady says, "You need parts? Try Odds 'n Ends."
(This segment establishes ideas about trading things, with the Crispin
C Valve exchanged by Buzz and Delete, and a Mark McGuire baseball
card traded for three lemonades.)
When the segment ends, conduct a brief discussion about the nature of bartering by asking the following questions:
|Say, “That’s a good list you
made. Bartering can have some problems. Let’s see how the CYBERCHASE
kids deal with those problems.”
Use the remainder of the CYBERCHASE
episode tape to show students how a system of currency is formed.
(This segment begins right after the café lady says, "Try
Odds 'n Ends.") Play the tape until after the kids pay for
the booster battery with 114.5 donuts, and after Buzz and Delete
try to steal it. Pause the tape at the end of the show, before the
“For Real” segment starts.
|Facilitate a discussion with students about
the difficulty of using donuts and why our system of paper notes and
metal coins is more practical. Ask the following questions to generate
|Explain that there are three important
characteristics for a system of money. On the board, write the words
portable, divisible, and
time-independent. Distribute the Currency Definitions Organizer to students, and ask them to take
notes and answer the questions as you define these words with them.
A Monetary System
Materials you will need for this activity:
|Hold up a nice coat (you may use a magazine
photo). Say, “In the CYBERCHASE video, they used donuts as a
means of currency. I’m going to sell this coat. Who will give
me one donut for it?”
| Hold up a t-shirt (you may use a magazine
photo). Say, “I’m going to sell this shirt, too. Who will
give me one donut for it?”
|Use this example to have students talk
about the value, or worth, of an item. Why is it silly to pay the
same price for both of these items?
| Ask, “If the coat really is worth
one donut, then how could you pay a fair price for the t-shirt?”
(By paying with only part of a donut.)
| Say, “It’s sometimes necessary
to pay for things that only cost a little. In the U.S. system of currency,
the dollar is our basic unit, but we can buy things that cost less
than a dollar. That’s why we have coins, so we can pay for things
that cost from 1¢ to 99¢.”
| Distribute the Divisibility Organizer
| Have a student read the first italicized
paragraph out loud.
| Instruct students to answer Questions
1-4. Give students 1-2 minutes to complete the first four questions.
| Review the answers to Questions 1-4 with
the class. Call on a different student to supply the answer to each
question. (For older students, these questions should be fairly easy,
and you can review them verbally. For younger students, you may wish
to write the answers on the chalkboard or overhead projector. Label
this: “Table of Equivalence”.)
| Ask, “If we didn’t have these
coins, what problems would there be?” After students suggest
answers, you should explain that that’s the way it used to be—in
ancient times, they often only had one gold coin to use as currency,
which could get heavy and was not divisible.
| Ask, “We have five different coins
that are worth less than a dollar. But what if the quarter was the
only unit of currency we had? Do you think there would be any problems?”
| Allow students to share their answers,
and then have them complete the remaining questions on the organizer.
Allow students to cut out the coins at the bottom of the sheet to
use as manipulatives when solving Questions 5-7.
Question 5. Using only quarters, five different amounts could be made. With 0 quarters, the value is 0¢, with 1 quarter the value is 25¢, and so on, up to 4 quarters equaling $1.
Question 6. In total, 15 different amounts can be made. It’s not possible to make every amount from 1¢ to 41¢, but the following amounts can be made:
| Activity 3:
Materials you will need for this activity:
| In a class discussion, have students select three items:
one that costs about $1, one that costs about $5, and one that costs
about $10. For instance, students might choose a pack of gum for $1,
a paperback novel for $5, and a compact disk for $10. Have students
reach a consensus on the items that are chosen.
|Draw a chart like the one below on the board or overhead
projector. Record the items, according to the student discussion.
| Say, “You already know how money works in the
United States. However, if you go to another country, you won’t
be able to pay for things with American dollars, dimes, and pennies. Other
countries have their own system of currency, and they’re often
very different from ours. For instance, the basic unit of currency
in Japan is the yen, but 1 yen is not worth the same as 1 dollar.”
| Inform students that the following notes and coins
are in circulation in Japan:
Optional: Instead of providing this information, you could have students research the currency and denominations currently used in Japan on their own or in groups. The Web sites listed at the end of this activity offer nice descriptions of the money available.
| Tell students that one dollar is approximately the
same value as 120 Japanese yen:
1 U.S. dollar ≈ 120 Japanese yenOptional: Prior to teaching this lesson, do some research to determine an estimate of the "current" exchange rate from US dollars to Japanese yen. See the end of this activity for recommended Web sites.
Return to the chart with the three items worth $1,
$5, and $10, and work with the class to complete it. For older students,
you may wish to use the currency exchange rate. For younger students,
you may choose to estimate the value of the items in yen without
doing exact conversions; this would be a good chance to practice
| Tell students to imagine that they have just taken
a trip to Tokyo, where they can purchase a cantaloupe in a vending
machine. The cost of one cantaloupe is 10,000 yen. (Explain that a
variety of items are sold in vending machines in Japan. In the U.S.,
vending machines are normally reserved for soda, snacks, and maybe
newspapers; in Japan, you can buy magazines, fruit, flowers, ice cream,
toilet paper, and even jewelry from vending machines.)
To show students an image of a cantaloupe, use this Web site: http://www.pricechecktokyo.com/images/melon01.gif. The sign accompanying this melon indicates that the cost is 2 melons for 20,000 yen. NOTE: Additional items that are surprisingly expensive in Japan are featured at the Price Check Tokyo site: http://www.pricechecktokyo.com/.
| Have students determine the cost of a melon in U.S.
dollars. Use the table in Exercise 6 to estimate the amount.
Optional Web sites for step 4, above:
Distribute the Current Currency Examples Organizer and remind students of the notes and coins that are available in both the U.S. and Japan.
Point out that the variety of notes and coins allows
for all kinds of combinations, as students likely noted in Activity
Two. Students should also notice that the coins and notes in the
Japanese system are similar to those in the U.S. system, so similar
combinations are possible.
| Say, “We’ve explored the Japanese system
of currency, and you already know the U.S. system of currency. Both
systems are pretty good—you can buy a lot of things using various
combinations of coins and notes. But do you think these systems could
be improved? Instead of using the notes and coins that are currently
available, do you think another combination of notes and coins would
| Allow students to suggest ways in which our system
of currency might be improved. If students are having difficulty with
the question, offer a suggestion, such as: “Instead of using
$5, $10, and $20 bills, do you think it would be better to just have
| Allow the discussion to continue for as long as students
are offering valuable comments. If necessary, you might wish to offer
an alternative system of currency for students to consider, or you
may wish to have students create their own system of currency (see
Extensions). Otherwise, conclude the discussion by
having students agree that although our system of currency isn’t
perfect, it does work rather well.
Materials you will need for this activity:
|Say, “Now that you know about various
types of currency, let’s look at how money works. What kinds
of things can you spend money on?” Allow students to share their
thoughts. Their ideas will most likely run the gamut, but if they
start getting wild with their ideas, bring them back to some of the
necessities that must be bought by asking, “What kinds of things
do your parents and other adults spend their money on?” Elicit
from students that adults pay for cars, houses, food, insurance, and
other "grown-up" and family-shared items.
| Ask, “Can anyone give me an example
of how you can earn money?” Allow students to share their thoughts.
Elicit from them that money can be earned with a salary, through investments,
and with interest from a bank. In this discussion, stress that money
is time-independent; that is, money can be saved
and spent later. (This distinguishes it from perishable items, like
food, which if used in a bartering system might spoil after a few
days.) In addition, money that is saved in a bank may earn more money,
known as interest.
|Tell students that they are about to participate
in a simulation that will show them a little more how money works.
Explain the basic rules of the activity:
| Tell students that in the simulation,
you will serve as the General Store:
| Explain that students will earn money
in this game, in the form of salary and interest.
TIP: You may wish to present the chart above to students and let them discover the rule for earning interest. The rule is that students will earn $1 in interest for every $3 they have at the start of the round, rounded down to the nearest dollar.
On the chalkboard or overhead projector, show students a list of the items that they can buy, and discuss the difference between "needs" and "wants." For instance, in the “Required Items” list are things like food, housing, and some clothes, which a student needs to have. Alternatively, the “Other Stuff” list includes items like TV’s, name-brand clothing such as jeans and accessory clothing, and compact discs, which students may want but don’t really need.
TIP: You may wish to create a list of the items
and put them on poster board to hang in your classroom, which would
give the feeling that you’re really running a store.
| Explain that students must buy or pay
for the items in the “Required Items” list every round.
The only exception is that students do not need to buy the transportation
pass if they have a skateboard, roller blades, or a mountain bike,
since those items can be used for transportation. The other option
is that students can choose to live in either a studio apartment ($21
per round) or a stylish penthouse ($34 per round), but they must choose
one of these two housing options.
|Explain to students that items in the “Optional
Items” list may be purchased each round. In addition, explain
that students are not required to buy these items each round, but
express that it is probably a good idea. Health insurance protects
students if they get sick or have an accident. A professional upgrade represents buying new equipment, getting a college degree, taking
some advanced training, and so forth, and it helps them make more
money. (Note: Before the game starts, DO NOT inform students about
the possibility of accidents happening to them. In addition, DO NOT
tell students how much more money they will earn with professional
upgrades. Students should experience the benefits and possible negatives
of these purchases first-hand.)
| Use pictures from magazines (pasted onto
index cards) for roller blades, skateboards, video games, etc. Use
props from home for other fun things—e.g., bring in a suitcase
for the student who buys a trip to Japan. In addition, feel free to
add to this list, if you know of items that your students will find
particularly desirable, or remove items from this list if they won’t
appeal to your students. (Be careful, however, to use prices that
are in line with the prices given here.)
| Distribute the General Store Organizer.
The first three squares of the organizer are already completed. Explain
to students what these amounts represent. The first box shows $30
in the “Amount You Have” column, since all students begin
with $30. Next, the second box shows $10, indicating the interest
that students earn on the first column; as mentioned above, the interest
is calculated by dividing the amount in Column A by 3, and then rounding
down to the nearest dollar. Finally, $40 appears in the “Salary”
column, indicating the starting salary for all students. Consequently,
students have a total of $80 to spend in this first round. Using play
money, distribute $80 to each student.
| Divide students into groups of four. By
working in groups, students can help each other with the rules and
calculations. Also, by having other students observing, it will prevent
students from “cheating.” In addition, appoint one person
in each group as a tax agent; this student will help you by ensuring
that other students do their calculations properly. (You may choose
to appoint one student in each group; you may choose one student at
random; or, you may announce that the student who serves as the tax
agent in each group will receive an additional $5 in their salary
| Say, “Now we’re ready to begin.
First, you have to buy the items you need from the ‘Required
Items’ list.” Work with students to determine how much
those items will cost. In Column D, “Items Purchased,”
students should list the things in the required items list that they
need to buy.
| Say, “You’ve met your basic
needs. Now it’s time to determine which of the optional things
you’d like. Who would like to purchase health insurance or a
professional upgrade?” If students would like to purchase these
items, they should list them in Column D, “Items Purchased,”
under the other items.
| Say, “Finally, you can buy something
from the ‘Other Stuff’ list if you have money left over.”
Have students list additional purchases in Column D, as well. Take
some time to “sell” the items to students—actually
have money change hands and transactions occur. Distribute a “health
insurance policy” to all students who bought health insurance,
and give a “professional upgrade certificate” to students
who purchased one. Make this activity fun by using pictures of items
pasted onto index cards to represent the things they buy.
| Have students determine the total cost
of the items they purchase. (For the record, the cost of the required
items is $47 if students opt for the studio apartment and $60 if students
choose the penthouse suite. Students will save time in each round
if they factor in this cost without calculating it.) Add the cost
of any additional expenses to the cost of the required items. In Column
E, have students indicate the total amount they spent on their purchases.
| In Column F, students should pick a “Lucky
Number” from 1 to 6. At this point, DO NOT tell them why they
are picking a lucky number. Have all tax agents verify that each student
in their group has chosen a lucky number.
| Once all tax agents have reported that
their groups are ready, say, “Okay, now we find out how lucky
(or unlucky!) you are.” Roll a standard die, and announce the
number that appears on the top face. Say, “If the number I rolled
matches your lucky number, then you just ____.” Fill in the
blank with some statement like “had your elbow stung by a bee,”
“caught malaria,” “lost a toenail,” or some
other occurrence. (Keep these light-hearted and funny; serious accidents
may upset sensitive students.) Students whose “number came up”
will have to pay $2 if they have health insurance or $50 if they do
not have health insurance. These students should enter this amount
in Column G.
| Have students affected by the lucky number
pay you whatever amount they owe. (Some students will complain that
this is unfair. Explain, “That’s life.”)
In Column H, have students record how
much money they have left. Tell the tax agents to do a quick check
of each student’s paper to make sure the calculations are
correct. Allow agents 1-2 minutes to make these checks. At the same
time, circulate to make sure that all students have appeared to
complete the first row correctly.
| Check to see if any students have spent
more money than they had. If so, declare those students “bankrupt.”
(In the first round, many students may go bankrupt because of not
buying health insurance and having to pay $50.) Students who go bankrupt
must skip the next three rounds. At the end of those three rounds,
give bankrupt students a $30 loan to help them out, but inform them
that they must pay back $50 to the General Store by the end of the
10th round. Make a note of students who go bankrupt and be sure to
collect from them at the end of the activity.
After the check for bankruptcy, the first round officially ends. Move on to the second round.
| In Column A of the second row (round 2),
have students transfer the amount in Column H from the first row (round
1); that is, the “Balance” from each round becomes the
“Amount You Have” for the next round. Based on that amount,
have students calculate the amount of interest they should earn and
enter it into Column B.
| In Column C, have students enter their
salary. Students who have no professional upgrade certificates receive
a salary of $40. Students who have professional upgrade certificates
receive $40 plus $5 for each certificate. (At this point, it will
be impossible for students to have more than one certificate, but
as the rounds continue, they may purchase more. Students are limited
to purchasing only one professional upgrade certificate each round,
but they never expire. In addition, while students are allowed to
purchase one professional upgrade each round, they are not required
to purchase one each round.)
| Have students enter the items they wish
to purchase in Column D, and then complete the remaining columns as
before. Continue this simulation for rounds 3-10 as well, stopping
to check for bankruptcy at the end of each round.
(As the game progresses through several rounds, you may opt to not take the time to actually sell items to students or have money change hands. It will be enough to simply record the amount of money they have. To generate excitement, though, be sure to carry out the transactions for the first several rounds.)
| Conduct a discussion in which students
talk about this activity. Be sure to touch upon the following points
in the discussion:
Before concluding, ask students if there are any other important things they want to share about the activity.
Extension: Using the same scheme for earning interest, tell students that $10 is put in the bank. If that money earns interest but none of it is spent, how much will they have after 2 rounds? …after 4 rounds? …after 10 rounds? This idea will get students to think about compound interest.
|Add a piece of paper to complete the chart that was
constructed during the opening activity. The L in KWL stands for Learned,
so the third part of the chart is where students should list the things
that they learned during this unit.
Say, “During the last few days, you’ve
learned a lot about money and how it works. Who can tell me something
that you learned about money?”
| Call on students to tell you the things they learned
related to bartering, currency, savings, and so forth, throughout
this series of lessons. Record their thoughts in the L column of the
| Culminating Activity/Assessment:
Select and implement one of the following culminating activities.
| Students could respond to the following prompt in their
math journals: Explain why you think our system of currency is the
best, or describe another system that you think would be better.
| Ask students to explain why our system of currency
that uses notes and coins is better than the CYBERCHASE squad’s
use of donuts.
| Using a fictitious example, tell students that the
State of Confusion, a far-away island country, uses rocks as its means
of currency. They use three sizes of rocks: a small rock
(weighs about 4 ounces) can be used to buy little things like an apple
or a roll of tape; a medium rock (weighs about 8
ounces) can buy bigger things like a pizza or a six-pack of soda;
and a large rock (weighs 16 ounces) can be used to
buy even bigger items like jeans, baseball caps, or a pair of shoes.
And, of course, you can use several rocks at once to purchase very
large items like bikes and skateboards. Though the system works fairly
well, have students describe how it could be improved.
| Have students write a short story about shopping in
a foreign country. In this country, there is no system of currency,
and students are required to develop the system on their own. The
story should involve how they conceived the system of currency for
this country, the conversion to U.S. dollars, one item that they purchased,
and, given its U.S. value, how they determined its cost in the foreign
| Have students write a one-paragraph report outlining
what they learned about money during these activities.