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Lesson Plan #:AELP-APM0007
AUTHOR: Patricia K. Asher, Carson Elementary School, Cincinnati, Ohio

Date: 1994

Grade Level(s): 4


  • Mathematics/Applied Math

1. To learn how to estimate prices of items.
2. To use catalogs and/or advertisements to research costs of items.
3. To use problem solving strategies and a spreadsheet template to determine what can be bought within a budget.


  • One or multiple computers
  • Software: spreadsheet and teacher-developed template
  • A variety of Christmas advertisements and catalogs

TIME REQUIRED: 1 class period

Ask the students whether they have been Christmas shopping yet. Ask them what they would like to get for Christmas. Have the students write a Christmas list for themselves and/or their families.

Explain how to use the database template. Tell the students that their jobs as Santa’s elves are to help him find the items on the Christmas lists. They have $200 to spend and should get as close to that amount as possible without going over it. Have them:

(1) Write the price they think items will cost;
(2) Put a star next to the items they think they can’t buy without going over budget;
(3) Use the template to enter the starred items from the list and determine their total;
(4) Take some items off the list if the total exceeds $200;
(5) Look up the cost of the items in a catalog or advertisement and enter the actual costs; and
(6) Determine if they can buy additional items, if they are over budget, or if they have done a good job of estimating and planning.

FOLLOW-UP/EXTENSION: Have students attempt to get a promotion to Head Elf by checking a number of advertisements and catalogs to identify the best price for the things on their lists. Have them determine how much they can save Santa. Have them enter the amounts from three different sources on a second template. Have them use a word processor to write to Santa about additional money-saving ideas.