Take an Imaginary Shopping Trip With Your Students

Take your students on an imaginary shopping trip to practice math and other skills.

By Cathy Neushul


Take an Imaginary Shopping Trip With Your Students

Students love to pick out clothes or other items to improve their school experience. You can tap into this natural interest to get students using math, research, writing and many other skills. In order to make sure that you make all students feel good about the lesson, you shouldn’t focus on the new things students are wearing or using at the beginning of the year. Instead make the lesson a sort of wish list, or imaginary shopping experience.

Setting the Tone for the Lesson

The best way to get students in the mood for this lesson is to start by talking about your own imaginary shopping trip. If it were me, I would probably choose to go to New York and take a visit to Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Barneys. You can show students some of the items you would pick out. You could go to the store’s website and print out pictures of the items with the prices. Then you can make a chart showing each item and its cost. It would also be a good idea to write a short description next to each one.

Once you have your chart ready, you can ask students to estimate and add up how much you spent on your imaginary trip. You could also ask students to calculate how much you would have to pay for the items if they were on sale for 20 percent off their normal selling price.

Having Students Start Shopping

If you have enough computers, you could select certain sites you would like students to use to look for clothing or school items. You could give students a budget that they had to stay within. As they find items that they would like to buy, students should draw a picture of the item, making sure it is as accurate as possible, and write down the price. After students have selected items that are within their budget, they can make a shopping journal in which they put the pictures of the items, the prices, and a short description. They can share these journals in groups. Students will love to talk about their fashion ensembles.

Bring in Math

After students have finished and shared their journals, ask them to estimate how much they spent on their items. It might be a good idea to practice estimating the cost with students. You can tell them that people estimate how much things will cost as they shop. Otherwise they would spend more money than they had available.

After they have come up with an estimate, you can have students add up how much they actually spent. Have students share whether their estimate was close. You can also have students figure out how much their items would be if some of them were on sale for 20 percent off, 15 percent off, or 10 percent off. This is a way to get students practicing how to calculate percentages, and make the connection between math skills and its real-life application. What follows are more shopping lessons and activities.

Shopping Lessons and Activities:

Let’s Go Christmas Shopping

Students plan an imaginary shopping trip with a budget of $1,000. They use addition, subtraction, and work with decimals to make calculations. This is a lesson that could be altered for use during any time of the year.

Shop Til’ You Drop

In this lesson students compare the prices for various food items, and learn to calculate price per unit. They also do comparison shopping. This is a good way for students to practice figuring out which item is the best buy.

Shopping Spree

In this lesson students go on a $1,000 imaginary shopping spree, and practice rounding and multiplying multi-digit numbers.

Shopping for Savings

This lesson provides a great way to have students practice how to calculate percentages. They also do comparison shopping. Students get a firm idea how percentages are used in every day life.


Writing Guide

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Cathy Neushul