Materials (word document)
Students will investigate how money affects schools by simulating
shopping for school resources and supplies.
Yesterday, we read two passages that compared two
very different schools (See How
Are Schools Different?). Today, we are going to
do an activity that will help us examine what happens when
some schools are funded unfairly compared to others. (If
necessary, explain that funded means how much money schools
“What We Would Buy” worksheet
a prepared “Classroom Items Price List” for
students to read. (A
sample list is attached.)
that each group will take on the role of an elementary
school principal trying to buy supplies for one classroom.
Each group will get a specific amount of money to spend
on school supplies and classroom items.
Tell students that groups must agree on what to buy and
they cannot spend over the amount of money they are allocated.
groups to record the items they select, the cost and the
total money spent on the attached worksheet.
Divide students into groups of four and tell them that
they will have 15 minutes to complete their shopping trip.
“Give” half of the groups $500 to spend and
give the other half $1,000 to spend. Tell students that,
as in real life, some school districts will have twice
as much to spend as others.
students about 15-20 minutes to spend the money and record
While students are working, the teacher should circulate
and monitor students, encouraging them to explain their
the teacher sees that most groups have completed the task,
s/he should have the groups bring their papers and meet
on the carpet for a discussion.
groups that had $1,000 to report out on the supplies what
they decided to buy. Record their choices on the board.
groups that had $500 to report out on what they would
buy and record their choices.
what students notice about the two different lists on
the board. Elicit responses that point out that if you
have more money you can buy more supplies and better equipment.
Also, invite students to share how they felt while doing
this activity (answers could include that it was unfair,
it was hard when there was only $500 to figure out what
to buy, etc.).
teacher should explain that this activity is an example
of what is happening in different schools across New York
State. Some schools have a lot more money than others.
In fact, schools in New York City have been shortchanged
11 million dollars.
Have students generate the list of classroom items
that can be purchased. Discuss with students what materials
are necessary and/or desirable for a classroom, from pencils
to televisions and lab equipment. Information from How
Are Schools Different? will be important to this
a list of approximately 20 items that the class agrees upon.
Some of these items should be necessary items, such as pencils
and paper, and some should be ‘luxury’ items,
such as computers and dvd players. Assign dollar values
to the items on the list. It will be important to consider
that the most any group will have is $1,000, so prices will
need to be adjusted accordingly.
for Literacy:The teacher should explain that 11 million
dollars is a lot of money. Read students How
Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz in
order to help students visualize and understand just how
big one million is, and then use that as a basis for understanding
In order to raise the level of difficulty, explain that
each class they are shopping for has 25 students. Instead
of telling groups a total dollar amount they have to spend,
tell half of the groups that they get $25 per pupil and
tell the other half that they get $50 per pupil.
students write about what they would buy for their school
if they had a million dollars.
can judge students’ understanding of material based
on participation in group work and discussion.
Teacher should also check students’ homework for
Grade Levels: 3-5
Mesler is an elementary school teacher at P.S.
196 in Region 8 in Brooklyn. She is in her third year of
teaching and has had the pleasure of teaching first and
third grade. She has been involved in Teacher College Leadership
groups and plans to continue to be involved in various education
groups. Leigh is interested in the issues specific to urban
schools, including how they are affected by high stakes
testing, allocation of funds, and teacher recruitment and
Allison obtained her undergraduate degree in Natural
Science with Elementary Education Certification form SUNY
Genese in Upstate New York. Part of the certification program
afforded her the opportunity to complete student teaching
in Rowland Heights, California. After student teaching in
California, she began to teach fifth grade in New York City,
noticing the similarities and differences between the two
school systems, and using methods from California that would
work in the her New York City classroom. She taught fifth
grade for two years before switching to the third grade,
which she has taught for the past three years. During this
time, she obtained her Masters of Arts degree in Childhood
Education from Adelphi University.