Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Percent Shopping Spree in a Mixed-Age Classroom

I downloaded a worksheet called Percent Shopping Spree from Teachers Pay Teachers. It is pretty traditional, and calls for children to go on the internet and "shop" for items using the given percent off coupons. On the worksheet the children are to write the item name, original cost, and new cost after the coupon has been applied. The goal of the worksheet is to spend as close to $1000 as possible without going over.

I had some misgivings about the internet part of it but the math practice seemed worthwhile, so I went ahead and had us try it with a pile of mail order catalogues. Quickly, the student with whom I was working and I decided this activity needed even more tweaking. Flipping through a big pile of catalogues was exhausting, and trying to get as close to $1000 as possible seemed like time consuming busy work. It also seemed to really promote excessive shopping, since we had to start by looking for the most expensive items possible.

Waldorf does percents in grade 6 as part of the Business Math block, so I wanted to find a way to adapt this activity for this age group. When we were talking about what parts of the worksheet didn't work, my student said, "What I really want is to put stickie notes on all kinds of things in the room and then I could go around and shop for them." Wow! Perfect!

And this works really well for incorporating multiple ages too. The fifth graders, who are learning about decimals, can make the price tags for the items. The first graders, who are practicing writing their numbers, can make and decorate the coupons. That way they can all be a part of it, and the coupons AND the price tags are a surprise for the older child who is doing the activity. How fun!

So we began with the first graders doing their number work, and we ended up with a set of six beautifully decorated coupons written on index cards. I told them to write either one or two digits, and they could be whatever numbers they wanted; I wrote the percent symbol afterwards. We made the blank side of the index card the percent off side.

Next, the fifth grader went around with stickie notes creating the prices. Lastly, the oldest student went on his "Percent Shopping Spree." The lined side of the index card was perfect for writing the original price, the discount with coupon, and the new price. There was even enough room to do the calculations!

This activity took us quite a while to figure out when you include the not-successful variations. But it was a lot of fun and very successful once we had tweaked it to make it match our environment. And I believe that it was a really worthwhile activity for my oldest student to figure out what skill was at the heart of the worksheet, what aspects of the original assignment were fluff and extra, and how to design a revised activity that allowed us to practice that skill in a way that worked well for our classroom and space.

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