2nd Grade Math: Minding the Store

The second grade math group culminated a unit on money by creating their own pretend store.  Each student drew 6 items on little pieces of paper, and labeled them with their prices. The prices had to be less than $10.  Students were encouraged to choose prices that they could comfortably and automatically compute change for. The students were impressively self-aware in their ability with computing change, and priced their items accordingly.

Leading up to the store project, students had learned various ways of computing change, including counting up from the price to the amount given, or using a whiteboard to write out the subtraction problem.  

Students took turns being cashiers and customers.  As cashier, students were required to compute the change they would need to give, based on how much the customer paid and how much their item cost.  Our customers were patient when cashiers needed some extra time to compute the change, and customers were required to count their change to be sure it was correct. After about 15 minutes, students switched roles. Finally, with a little extra time on our hands, all of the 2nd grade math students set up their stores as cashiers, and we invited the kindergarten and 1st grade math groups over as customers.

Playing “store” seems to be a universally fun activity for children! Students were offering deals, trying to attract business to their stores. Some students suggested that they were opening an online version of their store.  One student said she was “broke,” and another told me she couldn’t participate any more because she was all “sold out.”  

I found this exercise to be extremely engaging, meaningful, and academically valuable.  Students were able to apply what they had learned about counting, adding, and subtracting values in order to do something that they were very invested in.  

The more that mathematical procedures and skills can be applied to real-life situations, the more invested students become, creating authentic and meaningful learning opportunities.

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Melanie Berlin

is a classroom teacher on the K-2 team. Before moving to Chicago, Melanie lived in Philadelphia and worked for five years as lead kindergarten teacher at Mastery Charter Mann Elementary School. Previous to that, Melanie lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and taught at an independent school in Oakland, California. Melanie has her B.A. in psychology with a minor in urban education from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her teaching degree from San Francisco State University with a focus on social justice in education.

In her free time, Melanie loves playing ultimate Frisbee, drinking coffee, playing board games, and spending time with her husband and baby daughter.

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